Al-Shahab – The focus is elsewhere as killing increases

Editor’s Note – Al-Shabab is a Somali faction of Al Qaeda that in recent days, has emerged as a killing machine, and Kenyan soldiers have even entered Somalia to confront them. Included below is the latest article on that theater. Border wars and the struggle for control of Somalia have become a major conflict that the UN and NATO forces have essentially ignored. We are witnessing yet another re-do of Mogadishu as US troops land in Uganda, and it is spreading to other regions. Yet, the wars in the Middle East and North Africa also include the massive fighting and death toll on the Kurd group P.K.K.in and around Turkey and Iraq. The PKK has been deemed a terror organization by the United States.

al-Shabab Somali Faction aligned with al-Qaeda

Our diplomatic strategy seems most predominantly focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan despite the myriad issues elsewhere. Currently, Hillary Clinton has a very large delegation with her for her meeting with Karzai. “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai participated in a joint press conference in Kabul on the eve of Clinton’s visit to Pakistan”. In the Wednesday address, Clinton warned Pakistan against harboring terrorists, using what The New York Times labeled “some of the Obama administration’s most pointed language to date.

Clinton and Karzai discussed the implications of Pakistan providing safe haven to militants including the Taliban and the Haqqani, and Clinton pledged to “push the Pakistanis very hard” on the issue of terrorism. Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday accompanied by an “unusually powerful” delegation including U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey and CIA Director David Petraeus, and will reportedly deliver a message of both “support and pressure” to Pakistan. Despite the “muscular show of diplomatic force,” The New York Times reports that talks may be plagued by “fundamentally different views” held by the two countries on how to combat terrorism. That is an understatement of course, and its not the only set of differing views in that theater.

Pakistan Security Brief – In recent months, Pakistan has “turned the tables” on the U.S. by charging that terrorist safe havens have developed in eastern Afghanistan, which Pakistan suggests is the “new regional hub for Islamist militants.” According to the Washington Post, some analysts have expressed that Pakistan may be “pushing this case as an excuse for not pursuing the Haqqani Network” in Pakistani territory. Meanwhile, the U.S. is pushing Pakistan to accept a proposal allowing for international monitoring bodies to be stationed along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to ensure regional security and non-interference prior to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014.”

Somali Shebab rebels claim dozens of dead AU peacekeepers

By Mustafa Haji Abdi

AFP/Yahoo

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels displayed “over 70” dead bodies outside Mogadishu on Thursday, which they claimed were African Union peacekeepers killed in battle.

If verified, it would be the worst massacre and largest single defeat that the AU force in Mogadishu has suffered in some four years of bloody battles defending the weak Western-backed government against the hardline Shebab.

“We have killed more than 70 of the enemy soldiers today… We have inflicted heavy losses on them and you can see their dead bodies,” Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said, displaying the bodies in the dust to reporters.

Angry crowds dragged some of the bodies across the ground, witnesses said.

Photographs show long lines of at least 20 bodies dressed in military uniform laid out in the sand, surrounded by a large crowd with their faces covered.

Witnesses confirmed that the dead bodies were displayed in the extremist Shebab-controlled Alamada area, some 18 kilometres (11 miles) outside the war-torn capital late Thursday, and that the bodies were not Somalis.

“I have seen the largest number of soldiers killed in a battle, I have counted 63 Burundian soldiers, all of them dead, the Shebab brought them on trucks to Alamada,” Hasan Yunus, a witness said.

“Some of the dead bodies were dragged along by angry residents — I could not count them exactly, but there were more than 60,” said Ahmed Jama, another witness.

African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) troops and government forces have been pushing into remaining rebel areas in Mogadishu, after the bulk of the Shebab abandoned fixed positions in August.

Burundian troops with the 9,000 strong AMISOM force control the sector closest to the fighting and are believed to have led the assault.

Ugandan soldiers make up the bulk of the AU force and control other sections of the anarchic capital.

Despite their pullout from much from the capital, the Shebab have not wavered from their aim to topple the AU-protected government. They still control large swathes of southern and central Somalia, and remain a serious security threat.

Shebab fighters in southern Somalia are also facing assaults from Kenyan troops and tanks backed by air strikes since Nairobi declared war on the insurgents and confirmed it had moved its forces into Somalia on Sunday.

Kenya’s military said Thursday it had seized the coastal area of Ras Kamboni without a fight, a former Shebab stronghold just across the Somali border, said military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir.

Inland, Chirchir said Kenyan troops were bogged down by “heavy rains” some 100 kilometres (60 miles) inside Somalia, as they prepared to push forward to seize the town of Afmadow, where Somali government forces were fighting.

Nairobi’s unprecedented military incursion into Somalia, which it said had already killed dozens of Shebab fighters, has triggered warnings of bloody retaliation by the Shebab.

The Shebab deny involvement in a spate of attacks and abductions from Kenya — including that of a disabled French woman who died in captivity — that Nairobi says prompted its offensive.

In Somalia, there has been a series of suicide bombings in the capital since the Shebab rebels said they were abandoning face-to-face battles and switching to guerrilla tactics in the city instead.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber exploded a truck laden with explosives, killing at least 82 people and wounding many more.

But the deaths in Mogadishu Thursday provide a grim warning suggesting that the Shebab remain a powerful military threat.

Shamso Abdulkadir was amongst the giant crowd who came to see the dead bodies, and said that some wore body armour and helmets.

“I have counted 70, most of them were shot in the head and shoulders,” Abdulakdir told AFP.

“Residents gathered to watch the dead bodies after they were publicly displayed, and then afterwards, they were dragged about by people,” she said.

Somali government and AMISOM officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Heavy fighting was reported in the northwest Deynile district throughout Thursday, but Somali government officials had earlier said they were moving alongside AU troops “towards the final strongholds of the terrorist militants”.

Battles began before dawn in Mogadishu as AU-backed Somali forces advanced on holdout Islamist Shebab positions, officials and witnesses said.

The fighting was centered in Deynile suburb, a remaining pocket still held by the Al-Qaeda linked militants, which borders the rebel-held Afgoye, the world’s largest camp for displaced people.