Burundian Peacekeepers Killed in Mogadishu

 

Brundian Peacekeeper Killed by Al-Shabab

 

 

Our message to Uganda and Burundi is this: that as long as a single Somali Muslim remains alive on this soil, erase the notion from your hearts that you will be able to conquer this country – whatever might you exert. By the will of Allah this will never happen, for we are a people who will sacrifice our souls in order to defend our religion, our people and our country. We will never allow you to violate our sanctity’

These were the words of Al-Shabab’s spokesman Sheikh Ali mohamoud Rage ‘Ali Dheere’ as he delivered his speech standing beside the corpses of at least 7 Burundian peacekeeper killed by the Islamists in this morning’s deadly battle. Emphatically expressed in a vigorous tone beaming with certitude, the spokesman’s words, along with the gruesome images of blood-stained corpses of the Burundian peacekeepers, were intended to cause revebreations farther away from home. They were intended for an international audience!

In this open-air mortuary of a city, the ghastly images of the peacekeepers’ bruised and half-naked bodies drew a very large crowd as usual. Chanting slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is Great’ that electrified the scene, the crowd danced around the corpses in a tumultuous excitement, each person eager to kick , drag or hurl insults at the fallen soldiers. A gloomy sepulchural atmosphere overwhelmed the senses, but with such an uproarious crowd it is often easy to forget that the corpses that lay beside the puddles of blood were once soldiers who, like the thousands of their comrades in Mogadishu, believed with conviction that they were serving a just cause; that they were saviours of the Somali people.

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Uganda’s Ill-fated Peacekeepers

Somali Man Steps on Peacekeeper’s Corpse

He was kicked, dragged, stoned and spat on. And thus the fate of yet another Ugandan soldier whose corpse was left to rot in Mogadishu’s notorious Baar Ubax junction was sealed. The unidentified soldier, complete in his military gear, was last night captured by Al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu’s Northern district of Boondheere after a fierce gun battle took place between the forces. It is the third day of intense battles in the capital and the death toll is also increasing. Bakara market, the city’s busiest, has been under constant shelling and the number of innocent civilians thought to have been killed there has risen sharply.

Local residents denouncing AMISOM’s indiscriminate shelling has risen far above the wailing mothers whose sons have perished under the rubble. The TFG has also been severely criticized by the population for failing to put an end to the ‘Bakara genocide’ or ‘Xasuuqa Bakaaraha’ as it is known locallly. It is the Islamists, Al-Shabab, however, who have been commanding the limelight and choreographing events in the last few days, and Mogadishu’s media has been inundated with the gruesome images of AU peacekeeper’s corpses lying in the baking Somali sun or being dragged through the streets by children. Yesterday morning two Ugandan soldiers were on display in the Maslax compound; today, the corpse of another Ugandan soldier is wasting away in Baar Ubax, surrounded by a crowd of cheerful Al-Shabab supporters eager to dissect it. Read more of this post

Ethiopian Involvement in Somalia’s Media War

Mogadishu is a constantly changing landscape. In the course of the battle for this ancient port city, battle lines are often drawn and erased, defence posts erected and demolished, allegiances formed and severed, and more soldiers trained to damage and destroy. But while the interminable gun battles continue to temporarily transform the territorial gains of the opposing forces on the ground, it is the battle on the airwaves that will eventually define the final outcome of the war.

The battle is now in the airwaves and words are sometimes deadlier than the bullets. Soldiers’ confessions, government rebuttals, fervent Islamist lectures, Jihadi Nasheeds, information leaks and an overdose of carefully packaged propaganda, however infelicitous it may seem at times, appears to be the order of the day. Where one particular frequency bolsters the government’s voice and demonizes the actions of the Islamists, the other plays Jihadi tunes and sermons by senior Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, glorifying Jihad and Martyrdom for the creation of an Islamic Caliphate. And as a result of the ongoing political pandemonium across the country, it has become rather difficult to find an impartial voice – detached from the political process.

Al-Shabab, the Islamists controlling majority of the country, have recently stepped up their media campaign. Al-Kataib Foundation for Media Production, the rather sophisticated Media wing of the Islamists, has recently launched a terrestrial TV channel in Mogadishu to complement their steady stream of video productions. The channel’s pilot began with the confessions of a former CIA spy recently executed by the Islamists and reaches as far as Ceelasha Biyaha and Afgooye.

The Somali government, on the other hand, having been ineffective on the ground, has recently stepped up its propaganda campaign too. News stories, on-air drama series and, well, rather implausible ‘facts’ – distinctively characterized by derision – are often reiterated on the airwaves in order to influence the opinions of the masses. But these radio broadcasts do not often appeal to all audiences in the same manner, so the race is on for the opposing sides to sway public opinion to their side. Ethiopia has now also joined the race too.

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Well…The PM Resigns

President Sharif Ahmed (left), PM Omar Abdirashid A. Sharmarke

PM: Oh God! how much longer can I bear this? I can’t bear sitting next to this…!

President: Thank God! Only a few minutes and he’ll be off! Hmm…God the food tastes good – only if I could hire these chefs on my trips…Perhaps I could accommodate them somehow. Of course I can! I am the president…

PM: Greedy bast’rd! he even finished his plate before everyone and now he is eyeing the bananas. Ok – put way this plate – I am the bigger man here. At least the world sees me that way since I officially decided to resign for the good of my country and people. I will be a hero! A hero! Of course they don’t know anything about my settlement Duh!

President: Good riddance! now you can talk all you want about a cabinet reshuffle in Puntland! or even join your boys in Galgala – I know you are all the same.

PM: Dammit! I think I should have settled for more than I did, but, oh well! this should keep me going smoothyl for a while…

Sharif Hassan (left), President Sharif Ahmed

Sharif Hassan: Feel a lot better now don’t you Mr President?

President: Aah! Indeed,indeed Mr Hassan. It feels good to breathe freely once again. I was getting slighty hot under this collar…

Sharif Hassan: It is us once again Sir! The road is now clear and no more such burdensome obstacles I can assure you

President: well, hope you have our next ploy planned out then…

Sharif Hassan: Very well Sir! Very well indeed…you need not worry about anything Sir!


Duplicity and Disenchantment: The Collapse of the TFG

 

Somali President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed

‘It is the President who is causing all this trouble surrounding the government and if this government collapses, it is he who is responsible!’

Mohamed Weheliye Waqaac, MP

For the last few weeks, and the last few days in particular, Mogadishu has been in mired in disarray. The curtains of confusion have been raised and the residents here were entertained to a remarkable show: a political tug of war between the Somali President and his Prime Minister! In a bitter dispute that is threatening to break up the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the Somali President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, called on lawmakers to pass a ‘vote of no-confidence’ regarding the Prime Minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, in order to bring about a ‘change’ that would propel the government in the ‘right direction.’ In turn the Prime Minister, who is vehemently opposed to the President, denounced the attempts by the president as ‘nonsensical,’ stating that there was no need for changing the existing structures of the government. Indeed, the banality of the political landscape in Mogadishu has received its much-awaited makeover with a squabble at the highest level.

Amid the upheaval, the members of the parliament, with a 296 out of 300 majority, passed a motion last Thursday calling on the government to appear before the Parliament for a vote of confidence on Saturday in order to stay functioning. The Prime Minister, who decried the decision of the parliament, must win up to 276 votes of confidence in order to retain his position, otherwise he leaves empty handed. In this whirligig of Somali politics, however, it appears that the session was cancelled today due to reasons not revealed to the media and when a group of angry MPs decided to stage their own parliamentary session, AMISOM forces have managed to disperse them by force.

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Eid in Mogadishu: Fear Overshadows Celebrations

Ali M. Rage, Al-Shabab spokesman, leads Eid prayer

 

Somaliland Press:- In one of its rarest occasions, the city of Mogadishu today felt like a city of peace and calm rather than the deadly war zone that it has become renowned for over the last few decades. The thunderous roar of mortars and rockets and the rapid exchange of gun fire remained eerily muted this morning, and as if to honour the blessed occasion of Eid, the city remained silent. The frequently pounded Bakara market, though still healing from yesterday’s heavy shelling, closed its doors to business and public and a steady trickle of people, young and old, made their way towards the prayer site. Reveling in the rare moments of respite from the barrage of mortars that have recently pulverized much of the city, a multitude of men and women moved at aـ leisurely stroll while ecstatic children, blowing multicoloured balloons and whistles, trailed the footsteps of their parents, merrily frolicking on the streets. Their radiant faces displayed, for once, that long lost look of innocence, delight and happiness.

To mark the occasion of Eid, thousands of Mogadishu residents made their way towards Maslax, a Siyad Barre-era military compound now occupied by Al-Shabab. Though the stadium was the usual spot for Eid prayers, as it is large enough to accommodate the thousands of residents, it was abandoned in the last hour for fears that Amisom forces might shell the congregation in retaliation for the attack at the airport that killed several AU and government troops. The Islamists, however, have organized several locations in and around Mogadishu to accommodate the influx of residents rushing to the congregational morning prayers that marked the end of the fasting season and the beginning of family reunions and splendid feasts.

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Mogadishu: The Imminent Fall

Maj. Barigye Ba-Huko

The voice of Major Barigye Ba-Huko, the African Union spokesman in Somalia, hit the airwaves yesterday evening. Denouncing the attempts by Al-Shabab to overthrow the Somali government along with the AU troops as a mere ‘dream,’ Major Ba-Huko challenged the Islamists fighters to be braver and take on his well-trained soldiers.


‘Let them come and fight us. They know we are at the airport and I challenge them to come there instead of hiding inside the residential areas.’

 

Not more than 48 hours had passed when Ba-Huko’s imprudent dare turned into a grim reality. Al-Shabab has, a few hours ago, carried out another daring attack on the Somali government and the African Union troops stationed at the airport. Two cars, tailing one another and loaded with explosives and armed fighters, infiltrated the government-controlled territory and quietly made their way to Adan Adde International airport, passing by dozens of government bases and hundreds of armed soldiers along the way. They carried neither passports nor tickets and boarding passes; what they carried, however, was a firm conviction in their breasts that, after their operation, they would die as ‘glorious Martyrs.’

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Somalia: Legitimizing the Illegitimate

Al-Shabab Parade

 

As I type this, a fierce battle is underway in the northern districts of Mogadishu. The rapid sound of machine guns and other firearms combined with the loud reverberations of tanks firing and mortars exploding can be heard from miles away. Since the beginning of Ramadan, there has been no respite from such daily battles, but as the month of fasting comes to an end, the battles here have become increasingly intense, particularly in the last few days. And with the ever changing formations of the battle lines and territorial boundaries that define the authority of the warring sides, the battle for Mogadishu, and eventually Somalia, has entered another new neighbourhood.

After a series of co-ordinated attacks yesterday that targeted the Ugandan forces in the vital artery of Makka Al Mukarrama and Shangani district, the Burundi forces in Boondheere district as well as the Somali troops, the Islamists seem to be getting ever closer to achieving their goal. At around evening the loud sounds of heavy artillery fire echoed throughout the city and the sparks of fireworks glowing against the setting sun could be seen from every corer of the city. After several hours of the rapid exchange of bullets came the deadly silence. In this bullet-scarred city, where the gun wreaked havoc for nearly three decades, the sound of a gun has become a part and parcel of life. Silence, especially after a fierce battle, often signalled that something ominous was in the air. People immediately scampered to safety, and not before long, the mortars made their daily rounds, tearing apart the tin-roofed ramshackle buildings and huts. In response to the attack, Amisom began shelling the residents. Soon the news hit the airwaves that up to 23 people were killed and dozens more injured. And though up to 230 are reported dead this month alone and more than 400 injured, the numbers are far greater than that. Estimates here are at around 500 killed and more than a thousand injured.

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Somalia: The Instinctive Truth

You would never imagine the serenity that surrounds the beautiful Mogadishu skyline in the early hour of the morning. Standing at the balcony this morning and watching the rays of the rising sun shimmer across the great blue ocean, plunged me into a reverie that looked, well, more presumption than a possibility. There was no rattle of gunfire in the background or the sounds of mortars landing or even the clamour of voices in the crowded streets of Mogadishu. Everything seemed peaceful and calm; a feeling that is hard to come by in this part of the world. A gentle breeze whistled through the silent streets, playfully breathing life into the old cardboard boxes and plastic bags lying around in the dust. Even the melodious notes of the chirruping birds seemed to be quite in harmony with the tranquil setting for once.

Amid the stillness of the surrounding, the loud clanking of metal coming from a shop across the street immediately distracted me. A young shop owner was receiving a delivery of some stock. Three sturdy men unloaded the goods and carried them on their backs and stacked them inside the shop where the owner had instructed them. For a while it was somewhat pleasant to watch their neatly choreographed movements in the way they organised and unloaded the goods. They’ve nearly emptied the truck when another car, a Toyota 4×4, zoomed in from the distance, horns blaring. The delivery truck was blocking the road and the three men hurriedly tried to unload the last few remaining items in order to clear the road for the approaching car. But they couldn’t manage that in time. The car, which was driving at quite a speed, soon approached and forcefully hit the brakes at the delivery point, still beeping the horn.

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Somalia: The Battle for Hearts & Minds

Ali Jabal, Al-Shabab Governor of Banadir

 

The battle for hearts and minds in Somalia has long been fought and won on the basis of tribe and tribal allegiances. But with the rapidly changing political landscape, particularly here in Southern Somalia, a recent shift in perspective has had a tremendous effect on the Somali population. Today the battle of hearts and mind is fought and won on the basis of religion and the people of Somalia judge the worth of an administration by what it can do to alleviate the suffering of the population or by the number of services they can provide the public; and here there is a great divide.

In the congested streets of the Bakara market, an unusual event took place today. Al-Shabab, the Islamist force waging a bitter battle against the Western-backed Transitional federal Government (TFG), have launched a new ambulance service to help those injured by the bullets and mortars. It is out of the ordinary of a group labelled a ‘terrorist organisation’ to set up an ambulance service, But Al-Shabab seem to be defying the norm.

Unveiling this news service, Al-Shabab’s governor of Banadir region spoke at the scene with assurance that his administration was determined to help a population suffering at the hands of the ‘crusaders’ as he put it. Wearing a white overcoat, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Hussein or better known as Ali Jabal, addressed the amazed public:

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Somalia: The Blurred Perspectives of Peace

The menacing sound of rockets whistled past my window and exploded, a few seconds later, with a thunderous noise. It is a common occurrence here in Mogadishu. Every day dozens of rockets and mortars claim the lives of innocent civilians living in areas often far away from the battle fronts. Despite living in a hotel protected by large slabs of concrete, the power of the explosion threw me to the ground. Soon the pervasive smell of gunpowder filled the corridors of the hotel. It was a harrowing experience, and though I had expected my journey to be very dangerous, the moment of explosion completely dismantled my determination. For a while the whistling sound continued, as I lay flat on the ground, followed shortly by large explosions. Once the hailstorm had subsided and things appeared normal again, I went out in response to the neighbour’s loud bellows of rage.

Outside the shattered tin-roofed house, Amina Hussein, a nurse at the local clinic, screamed her lungs out. Rummaging through the debris and gesticulating wildly, Amina had to be restrained by a group of women standing nearby. And as the crowd consoled the grief-stricken nurse, I peered into the destroyed house. Through the ruins, and illuminated by the sun’s rays seeping through the small openings, I was confronted by a horrific scene. Digging through the rubble along with some helpers, we quickly uncovered the four bodies. The nurse’s husband and three children, lying peacefully next to each other, were all covered in blood. Dressed in what seemed like a colourfully embroidered frock, the state of the youngest daughter, no more than five years of age, was perhaps the most shocking. Shrapnel had completely punctured her delicate body while blood slowly trickled out of her beautiful face.

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Missiles Rock Mogadishu

Mogadishu is under attack. Dozens of BM rockets, as they are called here, fired by the AMISOM forces have crippled the busy Bakara market and brought the entire business hub of Mogadishu into a complete standstill. Just as worshipers exited the mosques, after noon prayer today, the rockets fell. Hundreds of people in the market scrambled for safety, some hiding under concrete buildings and others rushing back into the mosques.

I had just left my apartment and decided to meet a journalist, Keyse, for lunch when the shelling began. Squeezing through the riotous crowds of shoppers, hawkers, tea ladies and past the tightly crammed stalls whose fetid odour assaulted our senses, medicine shops and juice bars, we made our way to Tawakkal Restaurant, a fairly clean and quiet place compared to the other noisy eating places in Bakara. But just before we could enter the restaurant, the sound of a rocket fired caught Keyse’s attention. Being still fairly new to this war-torn city, my senses were not quite alert yet, though I am now slowly becoming attuned to the music of mortars.

The frenzied look on my friend’s face explained it all. Without a second spared, we dashed into the nearest building, hurdling past donkey carts, screaming kids and stumbling women. Though it becomes the natural instinct to help the elderly and the weak when in need, but during times like these, and in Mogadishu’s mayhem, it is every man for his own. Several rockets, whose whistling noise was enough to send fear running through your veins, fell a few streets away from where we were.

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Al-Shabaab Silences The BBC

Al-Shabaab has banned the BBC from operating in Southern Somalia. In a press release read out this morning here in Mogadishu, the Islamic Administrations in Mogadishu, Marka, Kismayo, Jowhar and Bidoa have taken all of BBC’s FM transmitters off the air and seized all their property. The statement described the organisation as a ‘vile western mouthpiece’ propagating ‘a barrage of depraved Western views’ to the unsuspecting Muslim population.

The air seems somewhat strange and silent here in Mogadishu. The renowned BBC tone is no longer on the radios and the public is buzzing with discussion and debate. HornAfrik radio which used to air the Somali Service apologised to the public on newshour. Al-Shabaab have also issued an order to HornAfrik, the only radio station that airs VOA news, to stop airing its programs.

Al-Shabaab’s daring display of authority comes at a time when majority of the Somali listeners have been expressing great concerns about the BBC’s management and editorial content. The BBC Somali Service has been riddled with complaints from the Somali media and the public alike.

Al-Shabaab, which has been banned as an organisation in Britain has struck back fiercely and banned the BBC, accusing it of inaccuracy, impartiality, lack of objectivity, propagation of Western views and fanning the flames of enmity among the Somali population. Some of these accusations, however, are coming not only from the Islamists but some professional and journalists have also voiced somewhat similar opinions.

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Al-Qaeda in Somalia

It may sound plausible; Yemeni Alqaeda would perhaps be welcomed by the thousands of Al-Shabaab fighters eager to receive them and they may even be garlanded with wreaths by Al-Shabaab’s unwavering local supporters.

But when Somalia’s Treasury Minister, Omar Osman, tells the world that according to the TFG’s superb ‘intelligence’ (who can’t seem to locate or capture even one of the thousands of Al-Shabaab youths by the way), 12 members of Al-Qaeda have crossed from Yemen into Somalia, what was the implication of his message?

Perhaps it was to distract the world’s attention away from the failing government and point the beacon away from the chaotic situation of the Somali parliament. Parliamentarians have been at loggerheads with each other lately – particularly with the parliament speaker, Adan Madoobe, whom more than 75 MPs are forcefully urging to step down. But of course, he refused. And soon we might witness another classic parliament brawl

The MPs have also criticized the embattled government for doing nothing to improve the security situation of the country and also accused Shekh Sharif of spending his time jet-hopping instead of tending to the affairs of the country. The government did not sit idly too as it was reprimanded but instead retaliated and banned the MPs today from holding any meetings.

So with a country in such a mess, it is only a wonder how the Treasury Minister got his information! Good detective work, Mr. Osman, but though this story of yours may sell in Western publications, even the young shoe shiners of these ruthless Mogadishu streets will laugh at you when they hear your tale.

Regurgitating old Al-Qaeda tales is only fit for western consumption. Here in Mogadishu, the TFG has become but a laughing stock. But since Osman and his ministry are quite accustomed to taking bribes, perhaps he aims to point out that either Somaliland or Puntland is an accomplice in helping the Al-Qaeda fighters to cross into Southern Somalia.

And with the long awaited offensive now turning out to be simply a gradual push, and Kenya denying the TFG’s request for some troops, perhaps Osman’s attempt was to titillate the ears of the West once again with some poorly crafted Al-Qaeda fables.

The Sufi Disintegration Phase – 2

Continued from The Sufi Disintegration Phase 1

We continue to look at the gradual decline of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaaca.

Politically:

The merger of the Sufis with the TFG could not come at a worse time. When internal strife had debilitated the energy of the group, the Ethiopians concluded the merger between them and the TFG. Though the aim of the merger was also partly to save the Sufis from disintegration, it was primarily two-fold:

  • To bolster the weak government’s deteriorating credibility by allowing it to claim the few successes of the Sufis in Guriceel and Dhuusamareeb.

  • To pressure the Islamists in the middle regions so as to reduce the pressure from Mogadishu

The results, however, were quite the opposite. The Sufis and their allied TFG forces met with a series of defeats in Galguduud and Hiiraan after their initial victories. Now the Sufis are confined to Galguduud region and maintain only the towns of Guriceel, Dhuusamareeb and Caabudwaaq under their control, with the towns of Ceelbuur, Galhariiri, Wabxo, Warxoolo, Maxaas and Ceelgaras under Al-Shabaab. Many of the prominent Sufi leaders also criticized the deal and the political wrangle between its top leaders did not go unnoticed, despite the media’s attempts to bury it.

At a press conference in Nairobi the Vice Chairman of Ahlu Sunna, Sheikh Hassan Sheikh Abdi convened a meeting to openly denounce the deal. The main cause of the split in the Sufi leadership is a complex clan structures. Sufis are comprised of a Hawiye and a Darood group, all sharing one common goal, i.e. to avenge their scholars. But with the merger, it emerged that since the parliament and allocation of seats were based on a 4.5 formula, the few Darood clans would receive nothing; therefore they all denounced the deal. A power struggle ensued, with the Darood elements of the Sufis disowning the deal and intending to retain the name of the group for themselves and the Hawiye tribes eager to join the TFG.

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