Al-Shabaab radicals launched an assault on April 14 against Somalia's Supreme Court. The attack, resulting in at least 35 deaths, was one of the worst attacks in years for the country's capital of Mogadishu. According to the Somali government, nine men were involved in the attack against the court, six of whom detonated explosive vests. Al-Shabab retained control over most of Somalia's capital before Somali forces and the African Union forced the militants out of Mogadishu in 2011. Since being forced out of the capital, al-Shabaab has carried out a series of bomb attack in the city, with the new coordinated attack amounting to the largest one since 2011. The Somali government reported that all of the attackers died, with some killed by security forces.
Twelve men charged with the murder of a prominent Islamic scholar, including Shabab leader Ahmed Godane, were sentenced to death after a court found them guilty in Bosaso, commercial capital of Somalia's autonomous enclave of Puntland. Puntland's North Eastern regional Military Court sentenced the 12 including Shabab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane to death by firing squad. Under Puntland law, all terrorism cases are held at military courts. Sheikh Ahmed Haji Abdirahman, a cleric, professor and doctor, was shot dead as he was leaving a mosque near his home in Bosaso in December 2011. The killing sparked an international outcry from the Somali diaspora around the world. The deceased Sheikh Abdirahman's friend and colleague Sheikh Abdiqadir Nur Farah—who spoke out against Shabab after Abdirahman was killed—was recently killed in Puntland's political capital Garowe while praying at a mosque. (Garowe Online , Feb. 27 via All Africa)
A Somali court on Feb. 5 sentenced a woman who accused Somali security forces of rape to a year in prison for insulting a government body and making false claims. The same court in Mogadishu also sentenced freelance reporter Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who interviewed the woman in January, to a year in prison on the same charges. Both sentences have been criticized by human rights groups. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the charges as "politically motivated" and "a mockery of the new Somali government's priorities."
Piracy on the world's seas reached a five-year low last year, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said in its annual global piracy report. Worldwide figures were brought down by international efforts against Somali piracy, the repor found, though East and West Africa remained the worst hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012. Globally, 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were hijacked and 28 were fired upon. IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre also recorded 67 attempted attacks. The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.
Jury selection is underway in the terrorism trial of Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-American accused of attempting to ignite a "weapon of mass destruction" at Portland's 2010 holiday tree-lighting ceremony, The Oregonian reports Jan. 10. But an NPR report states: "There was no bomb—the defendant was the target of an FBI sting operation... His lawyers are expected to argue their client was entrapped... The car bombing plot—the purchasing of the car, the gathering of explosives, the plan itself—was orchestrated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation." True, the guy came to the attention of the FBI when he started posting to online jihadist forums. But he was only 19 years old when he was arrested, and therefore could try "to convince the jury he was manipulated by the FBI." Good to see the media finally raising some skepticism about a specious terrorism case. Additionally, although no media account has mentioned this angle, we strongly object to calling a conventional explosive a "weapon of mass destruction." Much less one that didn't even exist! What's up with that?
A string of bombings rocked Somalia's port of Kismayo Oct. 3, killing two civilians and injuring many more—five days after the city was taken from al-Shabaab rebels by a combined force of African Union and Somali government troops. The taking of the city followed a two-month siege, culminating in a Kenyan-led amphibious assault, dubbed Operation Sledgehammer. Al-Shabaab leader Abdiaziz Abu Musab stated that his agents had carried out the bombings, boasting that they would continue their fight "until doomsday." He called the withdrawal from Kismayo a "tactical retreat." Kismayo was the last city controlled by al-Shaabaab, but the group and allied Islamist militias still control a broad swath of Somalia's south. The official government has achieved a shaky control over Mogadishu, but the rest of the country (outside the autonomous Somaliland and Puntland regions in the north) is controlled by local militia—some backed by Kenyan or Ethiopian forces, some nominally loyal to the government, and more aligned with al-Shabaab. (Mareeg, Garowe Online, Oct. 3; PRI, Sept. 26)
We are heartened to learn that President Obama is staying away from the funeral of Ethiopia's late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whose death was announced last week, instead sending a comparatively low-level delegation led by the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. (Nazret, Sept. 2) This may indicate a long-overdue distancing of Washington from Meles' odious regime, which we fear may change little with his passing. Meles, who ruled (either as president or prime minister) since 1991, made himself very useful to Washington, "renditioning" terror suspects for brutal "interrogations" in his prisons, and even now providing a military proxy force in Somalia. After Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 (with a US "green light," and probably military advisors), Meles' forces were shortly accused of war crimes by international human rights groups. (NYT, Aug. 16, 2007) Yet this now gets virtually no play in the overwhelmingly and sickeningly favorable media coverage of his legacy—contrary to Julius Ceasar, the evil Meles did is being interred with his bones.
A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Aug. 28 awarded $21 million to seven Somalis in a lawsuit against former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar. The lawsuit, which started in 2004 and made it all the way to the US Supreme Court, alleges Samantar was responsible for the killing and torture of members of the Isaaq clan in Somalia throughout the 1980s under former dictator Siad Barre. The Somalis bringing the lawsuit, some of whom fled to the US and some of whom stayed in Somalia, were represented by the Center for Justice and Accountability. They claim to have been subjected to torture or potential executions at the hands of the Barre regime and brought the lawsuit under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. The judgement included $2 million in punitive damages and $1 million in compensatory damages to the individual plaintiffs. Samantar's lawyers say they will appeal the ruling. The question of whether Samantar was improperly denied immunity is already on appeal.