Archive for Somalia

The Smartest Man in Washington

Jay Carney, of course, for getting out of the no-win job of trying to spin Obama’s serial failures. Now, poor Josh Earnest has to explain how on earth Yemen and Somalia are models of US counterterrorism strategy.

Yemen is a complete cluster, as everyone but the earnest Earnest concedes.

But Somalia is no day at the beach, either, as if it ever has been:

A siege that started with gunmen detonating a bomb and spraying bullets in a hotel in Somalia ended Saturday with at least 20 people dead, authorities said.

The attack, which lasted hours, began when gunmen raided the hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening.

Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, Somalia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, was among those killed in the attack, the Somali government said.

Not so permanent, then, was he?


Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the attack as a “heinous and inhuman act” in an interview with state-run Radio Mogadishu during an official visit to Egypt.

In a statement, Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said Al-Shabaab’s “talk of ‘legitimate targets’ and ‘justification'” exposes “the sham logic behind their lust for terror.”

“These terrorists contradict Islam and betray Somalia,” he said.

If you say so. I think they feel the same about you.

Al-Shabaab said it targeted the hotel because its guests are spies and government officials.

The terror group has been active in Somalia for years.

Initially, its goal was implementing a stricter form of Islamic law, or Sharia, by warring against the Somali government. It has since shifted its focus to launching terror attacks in Somalia and beyond.

“We reiterate again that there will be no safe haven for the crusaders and apostates in Somalia, and that our attacks on them will continue until the enemy of Allah (is) defeated and his law is implemented fully in Somalia,” the group said in a statement.

Maybe they could resolve their differences if they sat down together and chewed the fatwa.



Now, This is How You Project American Power

There. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

In two operations nearly 3,000 miles apart, U.S. military forces went after two high-value targets over the weekend. And while officials have yet to say whether the operations were coordinated or directly related, they show Washington’s reach, capability and willingness to pursue alleged terrorists.

One operation took place Saturday in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, when U.S. forces captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda leader wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

As al Libi was leaving his house for morning prayers, a group of 10 masked men surprised him, a source close to Libyan intelligence said. Citing al Libi’s wife, the source said the al Qaeda leader tried to reach into his car to grab his gun — but the U.S. forces quickly snatched him.

In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted a top leader of Al-Shabaab, which was behind last month’s mall attack in Kenya. The SEALs came under fire and had to withdraw before they could confirm whether they killed their target, a senior U.S. official said.

“One could have gone without the other,” said retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona, CNN’s military analyst. “But the fact that they did them both, I think, is a real signal that the United States — no matter how long it takes — will go after these targets.”

The operations were carried out even as polls show Americans are skittish about U.S. military involvement in overseas conflicts. This means, Francona said, that others who might be in the U.S. government’s cross hairs could have more reason to worry.

Speaking to reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the raids ought to make clear that the United States “will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror.”

“Those members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run,” he said, “but they can’t hide.”

In other words, you were for the projection of American military power after you were against, Mr. Secretary?

I’ll keep my snarkiness to a minimum because I couldn’t approve more strongly if Israel conducted a successful raid on Iran’s nuclear installations. Bravo.

I’ll just add that if I woke up one morning six weeks ago to learn that US forces had pounded Syrian government military facilities after concluding that they were responsible for the war crime of gassing their own people—rather than the embarrassing humiliation of letting “I dare not wait upon I would” that happened—I would have stood and applauded (with some snarkiness) rather than blow the raspberries I blew.

I’ll have to leave it to wiser minds than mine to know the difference between the two situations.

Congratulations—and thanks—to all involved.

PS: And thanks to President Obama for implicitly sanctioning Israel’s projection of military power in its own defense as well. Win-win.


When Bad Things Happen to Good Jihadis

Al Qaeda in Tuscaloosa:

A rapping jihadist from Alabama who ascended the ranks of Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked militant group and was on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $5m (£3.2m) reward for his capture was reportedly killed on Thursday in an ambush ordered by the militant group’s leader.

Omar Hammami, a native of Daphne, Alabama, who was known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, or “the American”, died in southern Somalia following several months on the run after a falling out with al-Shabaab’s top leader, the militants said.

Reports of Hammami’s death crop up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface a short while later. But a US terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabaab said he thought the current reports of the death were accurate.

“I think it’s very likely true based on the sources I am seeing,” said JM Berger, who runs the website

American jihadis doing the jobs that native jihadis won’t do:

Along with Adam Gadahn in Pakistan – a former Osama bin Laden spokesman – Hammami was one of the two most notorious Americans in jihad groups. He grew up in Daphne, a community of 20,000 outside Mobile, the son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father.

His YouTube videos that featured him rapping and his presence on Twitter made him one of the most recognisable and studied US foreign fighters. The US put Hammami on its most wanted terrorist list in March and offered a $5m reward for information leading to his capture.

Hammami moved from Alabama to Somalia and joined al-Shabaab in about 2006. He fought alongside al-Shabaab for years until they had a falling out amid signs of increasing tension between Somali and foreign fighters in the group. He first expressed fear for his life in a web video in March 2012 that publicised his rift with al-Shabaab.

The first serious attempt on his life was made in April.

“Just been shot in neck by shabaab assassin. not critical yet,” Hammami tweeted after the April attack. He later wrote on Twitter that the leader of al-Shabaab was sending in forces from multiple directions. “we are few but we might get back up. abu zubayr has gone mad. he’s starting a civil war,” Hammami posted.

Someone with “abu” in his name fomenting civil war???!? The world has gone mad!


“The Idiot” and the “Old Woman”

I’m just not quite sure who is which:

A Somali Islamist terror group is offering rewards of chickens and camels for information on the whereabouts of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, mocking the millions of dollars the United States has offered for leaders of the al Qaeda affiliate.

Fuad Muhammad Khalaf of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement in Somalia made the offer after Friday prayers, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant organizations.

“Whoever reveals the hideout of the idiot Obama will be rewarded with 10 camels, and whoever reveals the hideout of the old woman Hillary Clinton will be rewarded 10 chickens and 10 roosters,” he said, according to SITE.

Can I get that with a side of creamed spinach and some corn bread? Last time you forgot the corn bread.

I may want all terrorists dead (don’t think poorly of me—it’s what they want too), but I have to tip my keffiyeh to their sense of humor. Only whoever says inflation is tamed hasn’t looked at the price on Obama’s head: 10 camels? Why, when I was a boy…

Don’t worry, Mr President. We’ll never give away your location:

President Obama this afternoon went golfing for the 99th time of his presidency.

Ninety-nine rounds of golf in three years,
Ninety-nine rounds of golf!
If one of those rounds should be disqualified,
Ninety-eight rounds of golf in three years!

PS: That’s the Old Woman sorted—now where’s the Idiot?


Beware Islamist Asses

How is this story different from so many others?

They really mean asses:

Kenya’s military spokesman has said large groups of donkeys in Somalia will be considered “al-Shabab activity” following reports the militants are using the animals to transport weapons.

Maj Emmanuel Chirchir used Twitter to warn Kenyans not to sell their donkeys to the Islamist group.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia to establish a buffer zone, after accusing al-Shabab of cross-border kidnappings.

Al-Shabab, which controls southern Somalia, denies the allegations.

It has accused Kenya of planning a full-scale invasion of Somalia.

I’m a little distracted by Iran’s imminent entry into the nuclear club—and Israel’s likely black-balling of them—to be alarmed by the suspicious movement of donkeys. But I’m glad somebody is.

I’m not sure we’ve fully wrapped our heads around the reality that some of those who would do us greatest harm live in caves, command armies of pack animals, and are missing eyes and other body parts. Hundreds of whirring centrifuges and dozens of weaponized burros—choose your poison.


Minneapolis Terrorist Explodes In Somalia

So we grow our own terrorists and export them?

A suicide bomber who carried out an attack in Somalia this weekend was an American citizen of Somali descent, a website associated with the Al-Shabaab Islamist movement claimed Sunday.

The website named the bombers as Aden al-Ansari and Cabdi Salaam al-Muhajir, and posted what it said was an audio interview with al-Muhajir speaking American-accented English.

The speaker urges his “brothers and sisters” to “do jihad” in America, Canada, England, “anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, in Australia, anywhere you find kuffar,” a derogatory term for non-Muslims.

The African Union force trying to establish order in Somalia said there had been an attack Saturday involving two suicide bombers in the capital Mogadishu, but said AU troops “beat off” the attack by “al-Qaeda linked terrorists.”

Al-Shabaab is associated with al Qaeda and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. The African Union military spokesman in the country did not immediately respond to a CNN question about the identity of the bombers or whether any AU troops were injured.

Omar Jamal, a Somali diplomat at the United Nations, identified the person who made the audio recordings as Abdisalam Ali of Minneapolis. He told CNN that friends of Ali had listened to the messages in English and Somali and were “convinced it is him.”

The discrepancy in names may mean that the name released by Al-Shabaab is a nom de guerre.

Jamal said Abdisalam left Minneapolis on November 4, 2008, with another man, Burhan Hassan, who has since been killed.

It’s too cold to blow yourself up in Minneapolis this time of year.

– Aggie


Wait, What?

Read this headline twice:

Somali fighting and rain ‘worsens drought crisis’

Yeah, I hate it when it rains during a drought. It ruins a good tan.


Recite Scripture, Win Assault Rifle

This happens to be about Somalia, but tell me honestly: can’t you imagine it happening almost anywhere across the fundamentalist Muslim world? Among the Palestinians, for sure.

A radio station run by Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamist group has awarded weapons to children who won a Koran-reciting competition.

Andulus radio, based near Mogadishu, gave the group which won first prize in the Ramadan contest an AK-47 rifle and the equivalent of $700 (£450).

The second prize-winners received an AK-47 and $500, while the third prize was two hand grenades and $400.

Al-Shabab, linked to al-Qaeda, controls much of southern and central Somalia.

Four children, aged 10-17, were chosen to represent each district in the competition held during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended in August.

“Children should use one hand for education and the other for a gun to defend Islam,” senior al-Shabab official Mukhtar Robow told the prize-giving ceremony in Elasha, 20km (12 miles) from Mogadishu.

In previous years, when the competition was organised in the southern port of Kismayo, the first prize included an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade launcher).

Generous multiculturalist that I am, I was going to allow the logic of certain pastoral populations—Appalachians, say—making a prize of a hunting rifle or squirrel gun. But what do you hunt in Somalia (besides Christian missionaries), and what do you hunt anywhere with an RPG?

Besides, in the middle of a drought and a famine, kids would probably rather have a Slurpee or even a mango smoothie for their Koranic efforts than a hot, heavy automatic weapon.

But, from the BBC archives, we learn that Somalia was not always thus:

I remember the days spent swimming and having picnics and then, in the evening, we would go out to the cinema or even to the theatre.

That was when we still had a government.

And in those days we had embassies here in Mogadishu for all the other countries in the world.

So many foreigners lived here. It was so cosmopolitan.

Not xenophobic like it is today.

My city was beautiful and we had tranquillity.

Mogadishu used to be the best city in Africa.

A place where your family and friends were there. A normal life. It was a wonderful life.

I can’t see any way how we can have that life again.

Twenty years ago the hotel I am staying in – the Sahafi – was one of the best hotels and the area was like Chelsea in London. It was a rich area and very nice at that time. It was the heart of the city.

I could mock and jest, make light of their sorrow and misery, but I’m not feeling it. I never knew that Mogadishu, but I accept that they did, and that it is gone, perhaps forever. Even Somaliland wants nothing to do with it.

So, all I can say is that civilized people should treasure and protect what they have. Israel, America, the West—remember Mogadishu, the London of East Africa.

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Glass Half Empty

I’m old enough to remember Biafra. Yeah, that was a good idea.

So, it takes more than your run-of-the-mill famine to get my attention.

750,000 is a good (I mean bad) start.

But assigning blame? Convince me:

[H]ere is my top 10 compilation of alleged culprits for your consideration – drawn from conversations with experts, diplomats, Somali officials, foreign aid workers and some of the hungry themselves.

I will leave the blindingly obvious – the drought itself – out of it. But please weigh in with your own lists or arguments.

1. The US – only interested in Somalia in relation to the “war on terror”, piracy and oil – according to many.

Washington is extremely squeamish about allowing even a cent of aid money to get into the hands of al-Shabab, the militant Islamist group which controls large parts of Somalia and is linked to al-Qaeda.

It results in a kind of ambivalent attitude to aid in Somalia that has hamstrung plenty of crucial humanitarian programmes.

“The Americans want to be half pregnant,” was how one top European official put it to me, in disgust.

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than blaming the current regime in Washington. And in that category, nothing gives me greater pleasure than pointing out this regime’s betrayal of Africa (like a half-brother), especially compared to the previous administration (see fight against AIDS).

But seriously? The US is the number one culprit in the pending famine in Somalia? How about Somalia itself? And by quoting an anonymous “European official”, you’ve lost me.

What else you got?

2. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) – the one organisation with the real muscle to end the famine, but because it is heavily dependent on US funding, and tied up in beltway politics, WFP has struggled to secure the necessary guarantees to access al-Shabab territories.

To be fair, it is a lot more complicated than that – as I’ve seen first hand. WFP has had many workers killed in Somalia – giving it every reason to be cautious.

Oh, so now we’re being fair. Wouldn’t it be fair to mention the USA’s history in Somalia?

4. Al-Shabab – they have killed aid workers and blocked outside help from getting in. What more is there to say?

Well, I’d say place it a lot higher than No. 4.

6. The media: which brings us neatly on to journalists. We are, as one leading humanitarian official told me – with a mixture of flattery and frustration – absolutely crucial in all this.

The UN can produce endless, detailed documents, but the politicians who make the big decisions only react when they see it on the television or the front page.

To be fair to the media, since we’re all about being fair, they’ve been obsessing elsewhere in Africa, most notably Darfur. And if you think the media ignored Somalia, ask someone from the Congo about what’s been ignored there, if there’s anyone left alive.

9. Climate change – if you accept the science, then you have to accept that these droughts are going to be coming thick and fast in the coming decades. And we all share a responsibility for that.

Then again, I understand that Lower Shabelle – now labelled a famine zone – had a bumper harvest last year.

What? That makes no sense. How do you go from bumper crop to famine in a year?

10. Population growth – this is crucial. In areas of northern Kenya the population has reportedly doubled in the past decade.

“Twice as many people, but the same number of livestock. This is unsustainable,” a UN agriculture expert told me.

Only the BBC could bury the lead like that. Somalia, perennially close to the edge in the best of times, has outbred its resources. Ordinarily, I’m not a Malthusian—I don’t buy the disaster scenarios that mankind will strip the planet of the resources we need to live. But I totally accept the concept in small pockets. The Horn of Africa isn’t exactly moist; it’s not a question of if famines will happen there, but when.

So, it’s really kind of silly assigning blame. You can’t have that many people living that kind of lifestyle in that part of the world and not, eventually, see them die off in large numbers.

But since we are assigning blame, let’s add a few more culprits:

The energy stored in a bushel of corn can fuel a car or feed a person. And increasingly, thanks to ethanol mandates and subsidies in the U.S. and biofuel incentives in Europe, crops formerly grown for food or livestock feed are being grown for fuel. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent estimate predicts that this year, for the first time, American farmers will harvest more corn for ethanol than for feed. In Europe some 50% of the rapeseed crop is going into biofuel production, according to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, while “world-wide about 18% of sugar is being used for biofuel today.”

In one sense, this is a remarkable achievement—five decades ago, when the global population was half what it is today, catastrophists like Paul Ehrlich were warning that the world faced mass starvation on a biblical scale. Today, with nearly seven billion mouths to feed, we produce so much food that we think nothing of burning tons of it for fuel.

Or at least we think nothing of it in the West. If the price of our breakfast cereal goes up because we’re diverting agricultural production to ethanol or biodiesel, it’s an annoyance. But if the price of corn or flour doubles or triples in the Third World, where according to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe people “are spending 80% of [their] disposable income on food,” hundreds of millions of people go hungry. Sometimes, as in the Middle East earlier this year, they revolt.

“What we call today the Arab Spring,” Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says over lunch at Nestle’s world headquarters, “really started as a protest against ever-increasing food prices.”

Add to that, especially in Europe, a paralyzing fear of genetically modified crops, or GMOs. This refusal to use “available technology” in agriculture, Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe contends, has halted the multi-decade rise in agricultural productivity that has allowed us, so far, to feed more mouths than many people believed was possible.

Ethanol subsidies: what a load of horse crap. Actually, horse crap would make a better fuel than corn, and you can’t eat it, either.

And while I may pay extra to buy an heirloom tomato (or grow one myself), do nomadic Somali tribesmen really have a choice? Let me answer that: no! You want to eat, you’ll eat what I offer. And if all I have to offer is food grown via genetic modifications to make it hardier or more prolific to feed your sorry a**, then you’ll eat it and like it. Or starve.

How hard is this?


Brother, Can You Spare an Eland?

What if they held a famine summit—and nobody came?

Civil society organisations said they were disappointed that just four African heads of state attended the African Union summit in Ethiopia.

But the AU said it was not a question of who showed up, but rather how much money was raised.

The much-delayed conference was the first of its kind for the AU and was aimed at meeting the shortfall in global efforts to raise money for humanitarian relief.

Fair point. So how’d they do?

African leaders have raised more than $350m (£215m) in aid for 12 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades.

Some $1.2bn of the $2.5bn the UN says is needed has been raised worldwide.

So Africa, one of seven continents, has raised about one-seventh of the money needed to feed starving people in the Horn of Africa. Not too bad—better than I expected (though somebody’s going to have to make up for Antarctica).

But countries just don’t have billions lying around anymore, while the famines in failed states like Somalia just seem to be getting worse. The math is not good.

Oh well.


Jammin’ for Famine

I’m very glad I came across this, because when I look at Somalia and similar hopeless situations, I throw up my hands and say what’s the use.

Life in the West is still pretty good, even if our economic system looks shaky right now. Life in hell-holes like Somalia is not life at all—or won’t be soon enough for tens of thousands of people:

Droughts happen. Famines ensue. Families are destroyed. You can’t control Mother Nature. On a fact-finding mission to the border of Kenya and Somalia this month, I learned otherwise.

Traveling with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, I knew going in that 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of starvation and death because of the worst drought in 60 years. Five regions in war-torn Somalia are experiencing famine, and 29,000 children in the region have died in the past three months. There is much Americans can do—immediately and inexpensively—to save lives and quickly reverse the current trajectory of catastrophe.

Mrs. Biden and I spent most of our time engaging refugees who emotionally recounted their painful, weeks-long treks through parched lands with little food and water, having no choice but to leave their husbands in war-torn Somalia, often losing a child or two along the way to dehydration or lung infection.

The extreme drought has destroyed crops and caused the death of 80% of the livestock. For most Somalis who live a pastoral lifestyle, these conditions amount to an American losing their home, job and all worldly possessions, with no food or water available to beg for or borrow.

You may well wonder where the silver lining is to this black funnel cloud of despair. The author, Bill Frist, sort of provides one by pointing out that we have tools for the range of ailments facing those on the edge of extinction: vaccinations, drought forecasting, clean water, etc. And he’s right, up to a point.

But just as the eye of a hurricane is only a respite between rampaging winds, so is Somalia (and like “states”) ravaged by political and cultural forces. For Somalia suffers from not only drought and famine, but from a vacuum of a central government, occupation by a fundamental Islamist militia, and the bad fortune/stupidity to live in such a place.

The famine is centered in lawless Somalia, which is dominated by the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al Shabaab. Nongovernmental organizations find it dangerous to operate there, as 47 aid workers have been killed over the past two years and many others kidnapped.

Few Somalis have been vaccinated before coming to the camps (al Shabaab discourages vaccinations, considering them a Western intervention to be shunned). In a crowded camp of almost half a million, a small measles outbreak can explode and lead to mass casualties.

He neglects to mention that a lot of the aid has been stolen by al Shabaab itself.

So, while I’m grateful to Frist for providing a glimmer of hope for these people, I think he’s getting his (and my) hopes up. As he says, drought happen, famines happen. They happen in Africa with disturbing regularity. But that’s not the worst part.

When they happen in Africa, in states without central authority or anything resembling the rule of law, in the vicinity of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, it seems to me the equation can only lead to mass starvation and death. Two and two can’t equal five, no matter how we may wish it so. And while we don’t have to get used to it, we will see more of it, I’m sure. (We’ve already seen plenty of it in Darfur.)

I’ll give Frist the last word:

What can we do as individuals who care? A good place to start is the list of aid organizations on the website of the U.S. Agency for International Development,

Okay, the next to last word. I wonder if the solution isn’t, but Again.

PS: Long time readers will remember my outrage at the Muslim governor of some state in Nigeria who suspended polio vaccinations in the belief they were some Western plot. The disease, which had been all but wiped out in certain areas, returned with a vengeance. The governor eventually relented, but not until dozens (scores? hundreds?) of kids had been afflicted. And once the disease was back, the efforts of the medical groups had to start near zero again.

PPS: And proof of the fact that if a tree falls in Africa, it doesn’t make a sound is the death toll of the civil war in Congo, which various conflicts have claimed over 5 million lives. The dying in Somalia so cluttering our newspapers are rank amateurs in comparison.

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Mad Max Meets Al Qaeda

G’day, Al:

African Union troops fought house-to-house battles with militants Thursday to clear space for aid groups bringing in food supplies after intelligence reports showed insurgents reinforcing for a possible attack on squalid camps of famine refugees.

Heavy fighting erupted on the line of control between the government side and territory held by al-Shabab, Somalia’s dominant militant group.

At least six people were killed. The AU troops also paid a heavy price, with one official saying 19 were wounded, and some of them were put on an ambulance jet bound for Kenya.

Somalia’s famine is unfolding in the middle of a war zone, greatly complicating international efforts to prevent a wave of death. Some 2.2 million people live in an inaccessible famine zone controlled by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.

I’m tempted to dismiss the 2.2 million people with a “Fine, don’t eat”, but it’s not really their fault. It’s not my fault, either, and not yours.

But it is militant Islam’s fault, again.

You want to know the truth? Overpopulation will lead to massive loss of life. But not in Kansas. And not in Melbourne, or Singapore, or Botswana, or Alberta, or Luxembourg. No, I’m afraid the famines, droughts, and genocides will be limited to benighted places like Somalia, North Korea, and other failed and mismanaged states. And to people who willingly or not live under murderous thugs like al-Shabab and the Taliban.

Dystopian films like Mad Max will come to be seen as cinema verité. Pass the Milk Duds, would ya?

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