Thursday, June 20, 2013

Al-Shabaab commanders allegedly killed in bloody infighting

One day after Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in the UN Common compound in Mogadishu, the group’s leadership is said to have clashed in a deadly gun battle on Thursday in the seaside town of Barawe.

Security sources say that forces loyal to Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane aka Abu Zubeyr twice attacked another group of rival Al-Shabaab militants including foreign fighters led by Maalim Ali aka Ibrahim Afghani.

The night and down attack in Barawe town 200 km south of the capital Mogadishu resulted in a number of casualties. In a bid to prevent the news of their clash the attackers reportedly cut off telecommunication systems in Barawe making it near impossible to get reliable information.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Senior Al-Shabaab commander Afghani is among those apparently killed. Others reportedly killed include Abu Ayan, a Sudanese militant, Abu Sa’ad a Somali, a Kenyan militant called Abu Hussein, an unknown Spanish and Zanzibari foreign jihadists and another Somali militant called Samatar.

Another Somali man called Hikmater and believed to be Godane’s brother in-law was captured alive and is allegedly set to be executed.

If confirmed, the latest news about Afghani's death as well as the killing of his other comrades will seriously weaken Al-Shabaab and further split the already fractious group whose differences is centered around the hardline tendencies of Godane and Al-Shabaab's treatment of the Somali public including some callus suicide attacks that killed many innocent civilians attracting condemnation from even some Al-Shabaab senior officials.

In March 2012, American jihadist and Al-Shabaab senior commander Omar Shafik Hammami, also known by the pseudonym Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki accused Al-Shabaab of plotting to kill him. In May 2013, Fuad Mohamed Shangole, a senior Al-Shabaab official said that Al-Amriki was killed in Rama cadey area in Bay region.

Sources also confirmed that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a former Hizbul-Islam leader is said to be preparing for a showdown with Godane’s Amniyaat hitmen which the Al-Shabaab leader uses to assassinate whoever he considers a threat to his position.

Some local media in Somalia reported that Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Ali aka Abu Mansur, another top Al-Shabaab commander opposed to Godane, was allegedly heading to Baraawe to rescue the besieged Al-Shabaab foreign fighters and Somali commanders. However, it has since been established from his close allies that Abu Mansur is actually in Bakol region and did not travel overnight to Barawe as wrongly reported.

The timing of this attack coincides with a long seething wrangle among Al-Shabaab leadership and will further destabilize the group leading to more hostilities and possibly bloody clashes among its feuding leaders.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Al-Shabaab attacks UN compound in Mogadishu

In yet another brazen attack, Al-Shabaab militias on Wednesday morning attacked the United Nations Common Compound in Mogadishu. The Minister of Interior said 15 people that includes 7 of the attackers died in the attack while 7 others were injured. Local and international media reported high fatalities.

The well coordinated attack caught everyone off guard and seems to have been well choreographed as the militants first blew off a car laden with explosive outside the main gate of the compound before 6 Al-Shabaab fighters wearing suicide belts stormed inside the building and engaged the security guards.

As all the hell broke loose, united nations staffs who were at that time working in various UN bodies inside the compound found themselves between a hard place and a rock with most of them forced to lie down and to take cover from flying bullets and bombs that were being exchanged between the attackers, the guards and a Somali government special force called Alpha together with AMISOM Burundian peacekeepers.

After storming into the compound, 4 of the 6 militants blew themselves up and the remaining two were shot dead by Somali special forces called Alpha and Burundian AMISOM peacekeepers who came to rescue the UN staffs. After securing the compound, all the UN staff were whisked away by the AMISOM peacekeepers into the main peacekeepers located base approximately 200 meters away from the attacked compound.

"I was scanning some documents when I heard the first explosion and I just thought it was somewhere else and leaned to protect the documents I was scanning only to realize moments later that we were actually under attack. I straight away run towards the safe house where I found other colleagues and we stayed there all the time as the fighting raged on. It was so scary,"

The latest attack, which is so similar, in its planning and execution, to a recent attack on a Mogadishu courthouse. In a statement he issued after the attack, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia termed Al-Shabaab "a disgrace to Somalia" and warned Somalis to be extra careful in future and work with his government to prevent similar attacks.

"We will sadly be subject to this sort of mindless terrorism for some time, however, and I call upon all citizens to increase vigilance, report suspicious activity and help us to deter and catch these cowardly criminals." The Presidents statement read in part.

Medical sources at Banadir hospital where 18 injured civilians were taken said one of the wounded succumbed to his injuries. The official death toll from the attack is likely to increase and Al-Shabaab, which are affiliated to Al-Qaeda, has already claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nigeria whoops Tahiti for six goals

With all due respect, Tahiti is famous for its participation in the miss world pageant with their exotic beauties than in football as indicated in a recent football match at the ongoing Confederations Cup in Brazil when the heavily built Nigerian Super Eagles whooped them for six goals.

As an ardent soccer fan, my skepticism was proved right when I saw the African Champions Nigeria pitted against the lowly Tahitians, a small south Pacific island famous for its coconuts, exotic beaches and world-beating beauties rather than football.

I could no longer take the beating on behalf of the Tahitians, and just before halftime I went to bed with a scoreboard of 3 – 0 in favor of the Super Eagles of Nigerian.

In the morning, when I saw the game had ended with 6-1 score it was no longer a shocker to me!

None the less, Tahiti’s team of amateurs made history by scoring a goal against the Nigerians in a Confederations Cup tournament. Ranked 138 in the world, Tahiti become the first country in the Oceania region, other than Australian and New Zealand, to lift the Oceania Nations cup last June.

I am sure football can no longer be exciting for the French-speaking Tahitian's come their next game against World and European Champions Spain on Thursday. Football is an unpredictable game but come what may I will definitely not bet on our friends from Tahiti winning against the silky and much fancied Spanish team with the likes of Cesc FaBULOUS and Andres Iniesta in their ranks!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Power of words: Rise and fall of Al-Shabaab.

I can never think of a word that has changed the course of recent history in Somalia, brought a lot of misery, death and destruction to the poor Horn of African country like the word Al-Shabaab.

Coined from an Arabic word for youth, Al-Shabaab was until recently the biggest political, religious and youth group in Somalia’s history. Its might and repercussions was felt across the region as it went ahead to transform itself into an international movement consisting of almost every nationality and race.

Communications experts across the world often get hoary headed and literally lose hair almost every other night trying to find the right word or words for their key messages in a bid to try and either shape up their narrative or simply sell it to their desirable target audiences.

Whoever thought about the word Al-Shabaab whether by default or chance has suddenly and singlehandedly changed a nation’s course and rightly or wrongfully, depending on your point of reasoning made a huge stride or made the worst mistake of his life.

I vividly remember when the word Al-Shabaab was first started to be used by some officials of the Islamic Courts in late 2006 when the Islamist took over Mogadishu from US-backed warlords.

One of my earliest encounters with the word Al-Shabaab was around July 2006 when the Islamic courts union was recruiting a record hire number of youths – including soldiers switching sides from the government – all volunteering to face off with Ethiopian forces.

I can still remember one of those many gatherings and in particular one that was held at K4 area near Sahafi hotel at a former government hide and skin tannery (Hargaha iyo saamaha) where Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, who was the then Deputy Defense Minister, paraded scores of Somali pro-government militias from Bay region he claimed had switched sides to join the Islamic courts.

While addressing the mostly youthful militias he referred to them as “Al-Shabaab” and also sent out a message to “other Somali Al-Shabaabs” to come out and defend their country.


Today, nearly 7 years since their rebirth, the name Al-Shabaab still sends chills across people’s spine. Just like many Somalis I brushed the use of the word Al-Shabaab then telling myself the “Sheikh” had lost it and was trying to imitate Arabs as they often do whenever they speak the few Arabic words they've learned.

I was of course completely wrong as the name become so common among Islamist officials whenever they were addressing crowds and wanted to appeal to the young boys joining their so called Jihad against Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

Before long every teenager in Somalia had completely owned the name and simply wanted to be associated with it and even join the group, in order to learn how to fight and defend his nation from what they were made to believe is a holy war.

The brains behind Al-Shabaab knew the only thing that could easily unite Somalis is the religion and they made sure they used it to serve their own interest.

Their bad intentions paid off and the word they coined to rally the youths become so successful and actually helped them conscript so many youth who later helped them to take over almost the entire southern Somalia territories.

These expansions meant more money for the bosses and business was so good until they were ousted from major commercial cities like Mogadishu, Kismayu and Marka.

As a matter of fact, it is the same name and strategy that is keeping Al-Shabaab in its death bed now despite of the current economic and political turmoil amid irredeemable differences among its top echelon.

Al-Shabaab commander Ahmed Godane is said to be in a hide and seek game of throne with his onetime deputy and former spokesman Abu Mansur aka Sheikh Mukhtar Robow.

The two parted ways over Al-Shabaab’s tactical approach over implementation of the shariah and generally the group’s ruthless treatment of the public. Even their global icon Osama Bin Laden was dragged into this discussion on how bad Al-Shabaab was treating the public as reported by Wikileaks through a letter it claimed the Al-Qaeda chief had sent Godane in response to a previous letter the Al-Shabaab commander wrote to the then most sought man in the world.

Their woos actually started during the Al-Shabaab holly month of Ramadan offensive in 2011 when Mogadishu was slipping from their hands and they mounted their last attack in a bid to salvage some pride and control of the city from Somali government and their backers the African Union peacekeepers.

The Ramadan offensive marked the most deadly ever battles between Al-Shabaab militants and the Somali government forces and African Union peacekeepers. Unfortunately so many combatants and civilians died during the month-long heavy really heavy gun duels and Al-Shabaab lost so many young men during the time.

Unfortunately most of the young men they lost then were from Bay and Bakool region or the Rahanweyn clan of which Mukhtar Robow was their spiritual leader. He went ahead to pull out his remaining forces from Mogadishu and later on from Kismayu in a move that weakened the group. This is the main source of his conflict with Al-Shabaab commander Godane.

Ever since, Al-Shabaab’s vulnerability worsened and they have never recovered from that defeat and as a matter of fact have never since then ever pulled off any major military success -- Apart from cowardly suicide attacks and occasional ambush attacks -- in the battle field or even tried to successfully fend off any incursions by government forces and AMISOM peacekeepers in the areas they control.

As if to show how weak and vulnerable Al-Shabaab is getting, several incidents clearly point to tough times ahead for the group.

A former Somali trader in the Hiiran region -- where Al-Shabaab is still present in several pockets -- recently told my source how broke they were. The businessman told the Al-Shabaab man he only had $30 of which he send them only for the Al-Shabaab militia to call me saying how great they were as they had gone without food for a day.

And just recently this week, a security source in Baidoa, a south-central Somali town, reported of a racial division among some Al-Shabaab forces wrangling over collected taxes. The race division was between those with hard hair or Bantus and those will silky or soft hair. Both groups are Somalis.

This is so interesting because before the rise of Al-Shabaab the Somali bantus were actually looked down and in many occasions harshly treated by the majority soft or silky haired Somalis. As if to give the minority clans a breather, Al-Shabaab outlawed tribalism and treated everyone all equal. At least as PR gimmick as it has now emerged!

In reality, they went ahead to empower the minority clans by training, arming them and giving them an opportunity to revenge against past injustices. Talk of the hunter turned hunted or Tom and Jerry if you are into the animation movies!

The latest race division is a totally new development in the widening irreparable differences among Al-Shabaab, which is now simply a shell of the once dreaded group that called the shots in Somalia. After here, the only place they can go and are actually so fast heading to is oblivion and only to be read in history books for all the wrong reasons.
Sunday, June 16, 2013

Balotelli, the black player Italians love to hate

He is a young footballer, who is rich and a real black talent and for your information is Italian by nationality. His name is Mario Balotelli. As if he knows how Italians are naturally so proud, Balotelli knows how to work them up whenever he downs the blue Azzuri colors of the Italian national team jersey.

Balotelli on Sunday June 16 scored Italy's winning goal against Mexico in the 2013 Confederations cup hosted by Brazil. Straight away after scoring an opportunistic goal, the young Balotelli jerked off his shirt as if passing a message to his Italian team mates as well as the thousands of rowdy Italian fans who thronged the famous Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro to watch the game.

Racism has dogged international football despite tough sanctions and actions from the world football body FIFA. Looking at how Balotelli is suddenly the darling of Italians for his exquisite touches and his goal-poaching African instincts it would have been ideal for the hot-headed Ghanian born AC Milan forward to be used as a living example of how racism has no place in today's world soccer.

Whether they like him or not, Balotelli is a black player Italians would love to hate but cannot dare simply because of his unique contribution to their team and his big ego that somehow matches their own pride. I love the way God balances everything!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Good old Mogadishu is open for business

By Guled Mohamed
June 8 2013 - Today, I had a sumptuous lunch of marinated fish, rice and a glass of really refreshing grape fruit at Liido beach in Mogadishu's pristine white sandy beaches together with two Somali friends and a foreign colleague who was visiting Mogadishu for the first time.

As we drove towards Lido beach, my colleague could not believe how the old central business district (CBD) of Mogadishu was destroyed. He was so sympathetic and hysterical that he almost shed a tear. However, the beauty that lay in his eyes when we finally arrived at Lido beach wiped out the damage and destruction he had empathized about a few minutes ago when he saw the ghost city of Mogadishu.

In reality, Liido beach is actually behind the ruins and rubles of a that ghost city that once used to be Mogadishu's upmarket market city.

I have always been amazed by my people's audacity and you can never argue about their resilience either. Surviving 20 years of anarchy after anarchy is not a walk in the park. The Somalis have literally fought each other using anything and everything they laid their hands on. As a matter of fact, Somalis were so good at modifying weapons to the point that they mounted anti-aircraft missiles and machine guns on pickup trucks famously known as technical. The rest is history as the saying goes.

What strikes you as soon as you arrive these days in Mogadishu is the huge construction boom ongoing almost across the seaside Somali city as well as the traffic jams in the main streets. As if that is not all, emergence of street lights, road works and other ongoing rehabilitation works coupled with the generally vigor and vitality of the Somalis as they go about building their shuttered lives and their bombed out capital city is simply encouraging if not mesmerizing.

Mogadishu is officially open for business. The world knows this and so is the United Nations as well as western powers.

Turkey has literally moved there as the sight of Turkish agencies and professional working in Mogadishu has suddenly risen so fast since Turkish Prime Minister Tayep Erdogan become the first foreign leader to visit Mogadishu after over 20 years of war, death and destruction.

His visit seems to have opened the doors for Somalia and since then businesses have spurred and the local economy is slowly emerging from its deathbed thanks to the foreign investment and goodwill pouring into Mogadishu.

As if the rest of the western world were envious of the Turkish presence in Mogadishu. Suddenly, almost every other country that matters in this world started appointing ambassadors and envoys to Somalia and even went to the point of recognizing the Somali government for the first time since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

The UN did not want to miss out too, it has just re-branded itself from the small-scale United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) to a new, bigger and better United Nations Mission in Somalia or UNSOM headed by a former British diplomat.

For the first time in so many years there are daily fully booked flights to Mogadishu from Nairobi including a Turkish airline flight that plies Mogadishu to Istanbul route via Dubai. The number of African troops contributing countries has also suddenly grown initially from just 2 to 5.

Everything in Somalia seems to be growing these days, including its unrecognized currency the Somali shilling which has suddenly appreciated against the US dollar from 33,000 per dollar down to almost halfway at 18,000.

Suddenly life in Mogadishu is never the same again and residents have fast adapted to that reality. Many are turning their houses into guest houses and lodgings to accommodate and benefit from the huge influx of people jetting into Mogadishu. Somalis in the diaspora have literally moved back home and are leading in the reconstruction and rebuilding of their war-torn country.

So what's the fuss about Somalia and why has the world suddenly fell in love with this barren country? A young porter at the Aden Ade International airport in Mogadishu summed up everything for me as we chewed the evening away.

"We have of oil, uranium, a very fertile land for agriculture, Africa's longest coastline with so much fish that is enough for everyone, the most camels in the world as well as our geographical location is so strategic that it is closer for a ship to sail through us to go to Europe and the Americas from Australia and southern Asia. In which country can you get all that? And why do you think we fought?" he sarcastically asked.

I wish I knew the answer.

Do you know? Please tell us?