US armed forces have launched an air strike against the Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia. The attack targeted the head of the group, Ahmed Abdi Godane, but it’s not yet clear if he was hit.
The Pentagon’s initial statement was terse. A spokesman confirmed an “operation” was carried out against the militia, and that it was “assessing the results.”
Only on Monday afternoon could Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby confirm what Somali officials had already let slip: the drone missile strike was directed at Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.
Kirby said that “actionable” intelligence led to the airstrikes by special operations forces using both manned and unmanned aircraft. The airstrikes “hit what they were aiming at,” Pentagon spokesman Kirby said, saying that if Godane were killed in the attack, it would be “a very significant blow” to al-Shabab and its capabilities.
Godane, who has headed the East African terrorist group since 2008, is high on the US State Department’s list of the world’s top terror fugitives. The US is offering a $7-million (5.33-million-euro) reward for information leading to Godane’s arrest.
It is still not clear whether Godane, high-ranking advisors and commanders were among the “several” dead reported by the German press agency DPA in the military mission in southern Somalia. According to the Associated Press news agency, “six militants” were killed.
Drones instead of ground troops
In the 1990s the US was forced to withdraw its troops following a traumatic mission, and over the past years, Washington has relied on drone strikes to keep the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in check. Observers rate the fact that the Somali government has not protested yet as an indication that it was informed and involved. The population was pleased at the news, says DW correspondent Hussein Aweys in the capital Mogadishu.
Uganda to ‘send troops to Somalia to protect UN’
Uganda will send a 410-strong special force to guard UN installations in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, a Ugandan army spokesman has said.
The protection squad will free up thousands of UN-backed troops to pursue militant Islamists in the city, Paddy Ankunda said.
The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has stepped up attacks in Mogadishu in recent weeks.
At least 12 people were killed in a suicide bombing last Thursday.
Last June, it carried out a major assault on the main UN base in Mogadishu, leaving at least 22 people dead.
On Tuesday, a Somali military general, Hassan Mohamud, assumed the post of mayor of the city, following the removal of the incumbent, Mohamed Nur, who is known by his nickname of Tarzan.
The government’s decision to appoint him shows that improving security in Mogadishu remains its key priority, correspondents say.
A 22,000-strong African Union (AU) force, operating under a UN mandate, is battling al-Shabab in Somalia.
Col Ankunda said the protection squad would ensure the AU force was not “bogged down” escorting UN staff – many of whom are involved in aid work.
“Amisom [the African force] will be freed to follow al-Shabab wherever they are hiding,” he added.
Al-Shabab lost control of most of Mogadishu in 2011 to AU and Somali government troops.
It has changed its strategy since then, launching guerrilla-style attacks – including suicide bombings and night-time mortar raids.
Last month, al-Shabab fighters stormed Villa Somalia, the seat of government in Mogadishu, killing at least 11 people.
The group has waged an eight-year insurgency to overthrow the weak UN-backed government and create an Islamic state in Somalia.
About 22,000 troops are fighting al-Qaeda linked militants in Somalia
Institute of Security Studies
Peacekeeping in Africa is at a crucial juncture, and ‘template solutions’ are just not good enough anymore. This was reflected in statements made during the United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34), which started on 19 February 2013. Peacekeeping in Africa faces numerous emerging challenges that require a mind shift starting at the top structures in the UN Security Council (UNSC) down to the most common standard operating procedures.
The Under Secretary Generals of the UN Departments for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Hervé Ladsous, and Field Support (DFS), Ameerah Haq, certainly need the C34’s constructive contributions and feedback to ensure that peace operations policies, mandates and force compositions are flexible and pragmatic enough to find solutions to complex emerging threats. Indeed, in-depth knowledge and understanding is needed to manage peacekeeping missions effectively. The UN is responsible for providing strategic direction to 15 DPKO-led peace operations (14 peacekeeping operations and one political mission), of which seven are in Africa and two more (Mali and Somalia) are under consideration, and which have close to 114 000 personnel. Approved resources amount to US$ 7,33 billion.
At the UNSC level there is a need to enhance cooperation with regional partners to ensure more timely and pragmatic consultations, which are necessary for political coherence on the fundamental objectives of peace operations. Mechanisms should be established to ensure that regular dialogue takes place with regional organisations and countries that contribute troops and/or police before the UNSC makes peace operation decisions. Joint field missions between the UNSC and regional organisations should be the norm rather than the exception. The UNSC should consider engaging regional organisations in a more structured and regular manner during crisis situations in which those regional organisations have a vested interest. Even though it might not be feasible for another decade, initial discussion on the reform of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter should also be considered.
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter anticipates the need for close consultation between the UNSC and regional organisations, but the right balance has not been found yet. According to UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, the traditional principles of neutrality/impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defence now give way to strong political engagement and more ‘muscular’ intervention approaches such as the ‘intervention brigades’ in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali, which are akin to peace enforcement. He raises the question of how the UN will manage to balance this approach with its need to continue humanitarian operations and uphold humanitarian principles. Early warning mechanisms, including sound analysis and integrated planning, combined with the political will of all stakeholders, are required to ensure preventative action.
An important development in peace operations policy took place with the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2086 on 21 January 2013, which captures how multidimensional peacekeeping has evolved to meet the challenges of effective peacebuilding. Furthermore, the new UN Infantry Battalion manual developed by the DPKO in 2012 identifies several modern equipment and training capabilities required by peacekeepers to operate in environments that need robust peacekeeping. Smaller, highly mobile, well-trained and well-equipped forces with timely access to well-assessed intelligence are required to counter spoilers (that are often state-sponsored and well-equipped). Modern equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), air reconnaissance, night vision equipment, radar scanning, precision weaponry, real time command and information systems and blue force trackers, is needed to overcome the huge technological gaps in current UN peace operations. The introduction of UAVs in the eastern DRC out of Goma to undertake monitoring and surveillance tasks to protect both civilians and UN personnel is a welcome sign.
Ladsous’ recommendation that a director for the evaluation of Field Uniformed Personnel be appointed is promising, especially because there is currently no mechanism for regularly monitoring these personnel during peacekeeping operations. The Integrated Training Service’s needs assessment of civilian, military and police peacekeeping staff will hopefully result in an approach to UN training that enables the collaboration required for effective peacekeeping. Important cross-cutting issues such as the protection of civilians, security sector reform, rule of law, gender-related topics and multilingualism (especially French and Arabic) will need to be included in future training.
An issue that was not addressed by the DPKO/DFS, but that requires more immediate consideration, is the establishment of an office for maritime security in the DPKO. UN peacekeeping can no longer be land focused only. The other ongoing debate that needs attention is the requirement to finalise a mechanism for the international regulation of private military security companies. These companies provide protection to numerous UN facilities and personnel across the globe. If well regulated, the use of private military security companies will be a force-multiplier, potentially contributing to the success of peace operations.
How does this relate to the African Union’s (AU) African Peace and Security Architecture in its aspiration for enhanced African autonomy, often referred to as ‘African solutions for African problems’?
A better understanding of African peace operations principles is needed at the UNSC level. The AU has to ensure that it speaks with one voice and that the ambitions and activities of its regional economic communities (RECs) support overall AU objectives. The size, role and functions of the African Standby Force (ASF) need to be reconsidered. The operationalisation of the ASF by 2015 will not be achieved in its current concept, which should be realigned to address the disparities between the RECs’ own force design, development and mission readiness. Issues concerning logistical support, deployment timelines, resource constraints and African conflict realities, if properly evaluated, will lead decision-makers back to the multidimensional brigade-size force that was originally envisaged. The urgent requirement to appoint an AU Police Advisor and activate the Police Strategic Support Group will ensure a balance between military and police representation in AU peace operation decision-making.
Hybrid peace operations through a partnership between the UN and AU are necessary for solving future conflicts in Africa. This partnership is complex and challenging in terms of the political, economic and technical aspects. The statement by the UN’s Senior Advisory Group that the divide between financial and troop contributors is an ‘artificial one’ does not correlate with several African states’ realities. The UN and AU will be in a difficult position when some of the poorest troop-contributing countries are required to deliver highly skilled and technologically advanced forces to complex security situations. A meaningful partnership between the UN and AU depends on effective and dynamic cooperation. Both organisations will have to show leadership to overcome the internal ambitions responsible for fragmentation and the lack of political will.
AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s recent opening remarks at the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) are inspiring for the future of the AU’s peace operations: ‘Should we not at this stage consider providing sufficient time, capabilities and tools to implement and assess the impact of decisions we have taken? … [H]ow much time does the AU have to operationalise its peace operation decisions? It will require an orchestrated effort by the AU, and all international stakeholders, to ensure that the AU PSC and RECs are enabled with professional expertise, advice and outcomes-based support to implement well-meaning strategies into pragmatic and implementable peace support plans.`
Annette Leijenaar, Head, Conflict Management and Peace Building Division, ISS Pretoria
African Arguments by Abdi Aynte
The Somali militant group al-Shabaab is currently losing ferocious battles against Kenyan troops in Southern Somalia – part of an African Union peacekeeping mission. However, they are winning a strategic war back in Kenya; this is the battle for hearts and minds.
On Sunday, a blast likely carried out by al-Shabaab sleeper cells in Nairobi killed seven Kenyans on a minibus. Soon after, a machete-wielding mob of angry Kenyans descended on the capital’s Eastleigh or “Little Mogadishu” neighborhood. They pillaged shops, burned cars and left dozens of people injured.
In Garissa, near the boarder with Somalia, the scenes were much uglier. After unknown assailants killed three Kenyan soldiers, the Kenyan Defense Force (KDF), using brute force, went on the rampage, setting the local market on fire. In doing so, they deprived the local community of their main source of living.
Members of the Kenyan parliament, who represent Garrisa constituencies, even allege that the KDF forces have raped some women and tortured many innocent people in the area following the pandemonium. Livid, and feeling profoundly insulted, they’re now calling for an urgent investigation, and even suggesting that international help is needed for their protection.
Ethnic Somalis, irrespective of which passport they carry, have become a target for armed thugs across Kenya. Fear, guilt by association and a sense of ‘otherness’ have now enveloped the millions of Somalis living in the country, all of which is good news for al-Shabaab.
This hysteria is playing right into the militant’s playbook. As the Kenyan columnist Macharia Gaitho has aptly observed, “lashing out indiscriminately at Somalis is as foolish as it is self-defeating. The mad bombers must be laughing themselves silly having succeeded in turning Kenyan against Kenyan.”
Having lost the conventional war, the al-Qaeda-linked fighters are now on a mission to engage in a different kind of battle – one that requires no guns but plenty of highly manipulative techniques.
The Kenyan government appears woefully unprepared and frighteningly fragile. Just four months away from a national election that could see the country finally shed the memory its 2007/2008 post election violence, it can’t afford to marginalize one of its largest minorities. Come March next year, the Somali vote could prove decisive. Unlike their war-weary cousins in Somalia, Somali-Kenyans are highly educated and invariably sophisticated. They won’t accept being treated as second-class citizens.
As a frequent visitor to Kenya, I often notice how the country is institutionally pre-occupied with an intense competition over who succeeds President Mwai Kibaki. Rival tribes are jostling for power, which would’ve been fine if the security apparatus had the capacity to untangle itself from politics.
The events of the last few days could prove to be a turning point for Kenya. While the country has been able to decimate al-Shabaab fighters in southern Somalia, its shocking failure to protect its own ethnic Somalis (and Somali refugees) constitutes a defeat in the strategic war on hearts and minds. Al-Shabaab has in the past exploited the Somali people when they have felt most victimized. Already, the Shabaab’s effective propaganda machine is hard at work, trying to turn a largely unsuspecting community into a hostile unit.
If Kenya fails to turn the tables against the Shabaab by fiercely protecting the Somali community from the mob justice that befell it, then it’s hard to see how Kenya can ultimately win this developing war within.
Abdi Aynte is a journalist researcher. AA
African Union and Somali troops say they have secured Wanla Weyn, a town formerly held by Islamists about 90km (55 mi) from Mogadishu.
The advance represents the latest gain by Somali and regional forces at the expense of the Islamists of al-Shabab.
The nearby Balli Doogle former air force training base was also secured.
AU and Somali troops are advancing along the route between the capital, Mogadishu, and Baidoa, which was taken by Ethiopian forces in February.
The AU peacekeeping mission, Amisom, said it had begun the 211km (131 mile) advance from Afgooye, just west of Mogadishu, to Baidoa, on Saturday.
“Securing Wanla Weyn will allow for free movement of the population who have been restricted until now, unable to go about their daily trade and business due to the restrictions of Al-Shabaab,” said Amisom force commander Lt Gen Andrew Gutti.
“It will also facilitate the provision of much needed humanitarian assistance to the local population.”
The AU said their advance would also deprive al-Shabab of illegal taxes raised in the area.
AU troops pushed al-Shabab from the capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011.
Along with other pro-government forces, they have since secured most of the other towns previously in militant hands.
Earlier this week, Somali and AU forces took control of the port city of Kismayo, al-Shabab’s last major stronghold.
However, al-Shabab fighters are still highly active in much of the countryside in southern and central Somalia and have carried out suicide bombings and other attacks in cities they no longer control.
Islamist militants in Somalia say they have withdrawn from their southern stronghold of Kismayo, following an African Union (AU) military attack.
Kenyan and Somali forces launched a beach assault on al-Shabab’s last major bastion on Friday but encountered fierce resistance.
A Somali commander told the BBC that AU forces were not yet in the city.
Kenyan troops are part of a force trying to wrest control of the country for the new UN-backed president.
Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP news agency: “The military command of Shabab mujahideen ordered a tactical retreat at midnight.”
Speaking to Reuters, the same spokesman confirmed the withdrawal, but added: “The enemies have not yet entered the town. Let them enter Kismayo, which will soon turn into a battlefield.”
Al-Shabab commander Sheikh Mohamed Abu-Fatma confirmed the withdrawal orders to AFP: “We got orders from our superiors to withdraw from the city… this is part of broader military tactics we have set for the enemy.”
Kenyan military spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna said the AU forces were in control of the northern parts of the city and were preparing to move to southern districts.
Kenya’s Defence Minister Yusuf Haji told the BBC that al-Shabab had not yet vacated the area and it would “not be difficult for people who know the area well to sneak out without being detected”.
But he said the people of Kismayo were “very happy and were welcoming Kenyan and Somali troops with both arms”.
Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi said the Islamist withdrawal would “cut the lifeline of al-Shabab”.
He said: “This is very important because Kismayo has been the port that al-Shabab have been using to get in the ammunition. It has been the port that has been the centre of the piracy menace that we have been experiencing along that coastline for quite some time.”
On its Twitter account, the Islamists said their five-year administration in Kismayo had now shut its doors.
The al-Shabab-controlled radio station, Radio Andalus, is reported to be off air.
The BBC’s Somalia Service has spoken to residents of Kismayo who confirmed that al-Shabab fighters had left during the night and the city was now calm.
One resident, Aweys, said the police station and main al-Shabab offices were closed, with some teenagers engaged in looting.
“But no-one is going near al-Shabab military bases, because they might be mined,” Aweys said.
BBC World Service Africa editor
With AU forces advancing into Kismayo, the elements of a long-term Kenyan strategic plan – the Jubaland project – are almost in place.
It has been an open secret that Kenya wishes to see a buffer zone established just over its border inside Somalia. The scheme has the backing of Kenyan Somalis, including the Kenyan defence minister and other members of the Ogaden clan. But one major obstacle has stood in the way of Jubaland – Ethiopian opposition. The Ethiopians had been fighting an Ogadeni rebel movement, the ONLF, since the mid-1980s.
Addis Ababa was totally against Jubaland if it allowed the ONLF a rear base from which to attack Ethiopia. So earlier this month the Kenyan defence minister brokered a deal between the rebels and Ethiopia. This removed the last obstacle to the project and underpins the current Kismayo offensive.
There is only one remaining problem: the people of Kismayo are not Ogadeni and this explains why some local people supported al-Shabab. Dealing with their concerns will be important if Jubaland is to become a success.
A spokesman for the Kenyan military told the BBC he feared the withdrawal might be a trap, so at present no-one is in control of Kismayo, says the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Nairobi. Read more…
Witnesses on Wednesday said naval ships fired missiles on the strategic port city of Kismayo, the largest seaport town still held by al-Shebab militants in southern Somalia.
Mohamed Hassan, a resident in Kismayo confirmed to RFI that the naval attacks on Kismayo about 500 Km south of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu took place.
Witnesses in the town said that the situation is very tense as local residents began to flee from their homes.
This, as the allied forces move closer to the town.
Residents now fear air, sea and ground attacks that could result heavy civilian casualties.
Kenyan military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna told the media that seven people believed to be members of al-Shebab were killed in shelling that targeted what he said was an arms cache.
Al-Shebab officials were unavailable for comments on the naval shelling.
Residents said the naval attack begun after Al-Shebab militants dragged the bodies of four Kenyan soldiers into the streets of Kismayo.
The Kenyan fleet responded by launching strikes on the city.
Al-Shebab dragged the bodies into the street following a fierce battle near Afmadow that left dozens of people, mostly combatants dead.
Amisom, on their part confirmed that five Amisom personnel were missing in action after the battle which led the fall of Miido which is a strategically located town between Afmadow and Kismayo. Read more…