Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, is a frequent guest commentator on various media outlets throughout the world. Azikiwe is also a broadcast journalist and hosts the Pan-African Journal blogtalk radio program., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Kenyan Defense Forces Launch Attack on Southern Somalia Port City of Kismayo
U.S.-backed troops claim that Al-Shabab has fled its last stronghold
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) have reported that they are patrolling the north and western neighborhoods of the strategic southern Somalia port city of Kismayo, a stronghold of the Al-Shabab Islamic resistance movement which controlled large segments of the central and southern region of the Horn of Africa nation. A 17,000-member African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) military force, which has been largely trained, financed and coordinated by the United States, claims that it has taken the port city and will move towards remaking the area as a harbor for western influence in the region.
The AMISOM forces consist of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. They are trained by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and provided with logistical support for their operations against Al-Shabab.
In the midst of reports of an Al-Shabab retreat, 13 people were killed on October 1 in the aftermath of a U.S. predator drone attack in Kismayo. After the drone strike, the Al-Shabab movement launched a surprise attack on the U.S.-backed Somalia military forces which represents the new transitional government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
According to Press TV, “A number of high-ranking military officers were killed and dozens more wounded in the attack. Al-Shabab fighters withdrew from Kismayo earlier, saying the retreat was tactical and that they would strike back.” (Press TV, October 1)
Although the AMISOM and U.S.-backed Somalia forces say that these recent developments represent the beginning of the end for Al-Shabab, a resistance organization that has fought Washington’s influence in the country for the last four years, other officials in the State Department say that the battle is still not over. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson noted that Al-Shabab will fight back while being pursued by AMISOM and Somalia units.
“They have not been defeated entirely yet. We expect that there will continue to be asymmetrical operations against AMISOM and against the government, but they have been effectively degraded,” Carson told the Voice of America (VOA).
Carson continued saying of the bombing and ground assault on Kismayo by U.S.-backed forces that “All of this represents not only a military success but it contributes to the political progress and stability and the return to stability that we have been missing in that country. No more warlordism, no more clan and sub-clan militias, no more regional forces but a military that is well-trained and subservient to the government at hand.” (VOA, October 1)
KDF soldiers as part of the AMISOM forces say they stormed the beaches at Kismayo on the morning of September 28. Heavy fighting erupted in the area and local sources say that “both forces are fighting inside the city.” (Garowe Online, September 28)
Kenyan military spokesman have said that they have seized the presidential residence as well as the airport. At present, they claim, KDF units are pushing Al-Shabab forces out of the city.
A spokesman for Al-Shabab, Abdiaziz Abu Musab, confirmed that there was heavy fighting taking place inside the city. Local residents report that Al-Shabab is using anti-aircraft weapons as KDF planes are bombarding targets in the area.
Plans to Infiltrate U.S.-backed Military Forces Underway?
There are unconfirmed reports that the Al-Shabab resistance movement has embarked upon plans to infiltrate the U.S.-backed Somalia army in order to reverse the present advances by its units. According to confidential sources, “Islamist elements associated with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud are pursuing a policy of negotiating with Al-Shabab, as the group has been severely weakened in recent months and is in a desperate position.” (Garowe Online, Sepember 27)
This plan is purportedly connected with an announcement on September 25 that the Hizbul Islam group, which had merged with Al-Shabab in 2010, would withdraw its allegiance to Al-Shabab and seek entry into the new government. Sheikh Mohamed Moallim, a spokesman for Hizbul Islam was reported to have said that the organization had “joined forces by mouth only, and now we have decided to withdraw our support.” (Garowe Online, September 25)
Nonetheless, other sources claim that “Hizbul Islam would enter into negotiations with the Somalia government with the ultimate outcome of a peace deal that would pave the way for Al-Shabab fighters to join and indeed infiltrate the national security forces, which have been trained over recent years with considerable Western funding and technical assistance through the AMISOM mission in Mogadishu.” (Garowe Online, September 27)
The same source goes on to say that “The plan is for Al-Shabab fighters to ‘rebrand’ themselves as Hizbul Islam members.” Al-Shabab is designated by the U.S. as a “terrorist” organization.
Meanwhile a cabinet minister in the breakaway northern Somaliland region of Somalia has offered a general amnesty to Al-Shabab fighters. Interior Minister Mohamed Nur Arale Duur, who spoke with Horn Cable TV satellite station in September, indicated that the government was willing to re-integrate Al-Shabab forces that were originally from this region of the country.
Minister Duur said that “We appeal to the youth who adopted the extremist ideology and who were involved in those wars in south-central Somalia, if they are willing to give up that ideology and to live a good and calm life, we can extend them a general amnesty, because all humans make mistakes.” (Garowe Online, September 25)
Security Situation Remains Unstable
Even though these reports of the degradation of Al-Shabab forces have been repeated in the western corporate media, the situation even within the capital of Mogadishu is still unsettling. In the immediate aftermath of the sitting of a new parliament and the election of President Hassan Sheikh, there was an assassination attempt against the leader who, it is rumored, is a member of the Somalia branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, known as Al Islah.
On September 29 it was announced that two journalists had been killed within a twenty-four hour period in Mogadishu. These two killings brought the number of journalists murdered up to five during the course of one week.
In fact assassinations have escalated since the formation of the new government that is backed by Washington. The Obama administration has invested considerable resources in establishing a friendly government in Somalia.
The 17,000-member AMISOM military force is supported by the presence of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station in Mogadishu and the utilization of predator and reaper drones over the Horn of Africa state. In addition, flotillas of warships from the U.S. and the European Union have been patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean for four years in an effort to curtail “piracy” in the region.
Somalia has been wracked by civil war and foreign imperialist intervention since 1991 when the government of Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed. U.S. Marines invaded and occupied the country between December 1992 and early 1994, however, they were forced out due to the resistance of the Somalia people resulting in the deaths of many Pentagon troops.
In late 2006, the Bush administration encouraged the Ethiopian military under the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to intervene in Somalia aiming to prevent the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) from consolidating its political bases. Resistance against the Ethiopian occupation resulted in their departure in early 2009.
The formation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) came into being in early 2009 after a split within the ICU. The youth wing of the ICU, Al-Shabab, has continued the fight against the U.S.-backed regime for over three years.
Although the western-backed forces are claiming victory in the latest fighting around Kismayo, it will remain to be seen if this actually brings the western-oriented stability desired by the imperialist states and their allies in the region. Somalia and its breakaway regions are emerging as oil-producing areas, consequently there will be further imperialist intervention in the quest for resources and profits.