Rebel leader calls for more suicide bombings in Somalia

Carly Nyst
21 September 2009

The leader of Somalia's Hizbul Islam rebels has called for an increase in suicide bombings, calling them an ‘acceptable tactic in Islam when it comes to defending your people and your religion,' Reuters reports. The comments of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys came only days after a suicide bomb hit the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) in Mogadishu killing 17 peacekeepers. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys praised the bombings, carried out by the main rebel group Al Shabaab, and called upon all Somalis to fight Western forces with every weapon available, ‘even knives.'

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Islamist rebels' influence in Mogadishu is steadily increasing as the situation becomes increasingly precarious. Al Shabaab have barred three UN agencies from operating on its territory, accusing them of working against the creation of an Islamic state, and rebels have issued orders to schools banning textbooks supplied by UN agencies and other donors. Raids on UN compounds in central Somalia earlier in the year profited the rebel groups, which now have at least six stolen UN vehicles primed as suicide car bombs, according to the Somali government.

The ToD verdict: The conflict in Somalia, which has killed more than 18,000 civilians since 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, show no signs of abating, and recent suicide bombings have only reinforced to many what has long been obvious: the Somali government has no control over the situation of the country and, without considerable intervention, there is no realistic chance of peace returning.

The Somali government has called for the strengthening of AMISOM by at least a further 3,000 peacekeepers. However, with the recent attacks on the force and the rising death toll in the capital, African countries will no doubt be heavily dissuaded from joining the force of primarily Burundian and Ugandan soldiers. Unless President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed can persuade AMISOM to shore up its numbers, or convince the UN to replace the force with a more robust peacekeeping mission, the country is unlikely to see little of the $200 million pledged by donors to help it boost security. With the current lack of robust institutions and widespread corruption, the monetary and other backing once promised by Western and regional observers to the President is unlikely to be fulfilled.

The country is in desperate need of some immediate intervention, whether it be in the form of regional or UN peacekeepers, or a Western military force. If the country continues on its current path towards complete lawlessness, only Al Shabaab, which recently called for more foreign jihadists to join them in Somalia, will benefit.

Pentagon to undertake radical review of US nuclear program

US President Barack Obama has rejected the first draft of a Pentagon ‘nuclear posture review' and demanded a more radical revision of the US nuclear weapons program, The Guardian reported on Monday. With the ultimate goal of eventually eliminating the US nuclear stockpile, Obama has insisted the Pentagon revisit the assessment of how cuts can be made. There are reportedly a number of options for reducing the nuclear weapon arsenal currently under consideration, including decreasing the US nuclear force from thousands to hundreds of deployed warheads, redrafting US nuclear doctrine, and limiting the testing and production of new warheads.

The review comes as Obama prepares to chair a watershed session of the UN Security Council, aimed at reaching consensus on increased nuclear disarmament, on Thursday. The session is directed at generating some global agreement on the issue of proliferation prior to the planned review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2010. It is the hope of some countries, particularly Britain and the US, that Thursday's meeting might lead to some consensus on setting a timeline for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. However, according to a final draft resolution due to be passed at the session, the security council will refrain from setting concrete goals, asking instead that countries ‘create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.'

Yemeni rebels using ‘human shields'

Yemen's president addressed the country on Sunday, accusing rebels in the north of the country of using ‘human shields' and killing innocent civilians. The address, given to mark Eid, by President Ali Abdullah Saleh defended the five-week-long offensive by government forces against militants of the Shi'ite Zaydi sect, and criticised the Shi'ite rebels for ignoring a ceasefire offer. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported that more than eighty civilians have been killed in the fighting, and more than 30,000 have registered for assistance with the ICRC.

Taliban spokesman arrested in Pakistan

A top Taliban official and four senior militants have been arrested in north-west Pakistan, according to officials. A key spokesman for the Taliban in Swat valley, Muslim Kahn, was one of the highest-ranking Taliban officials in Pakistan, and was arrested after the Pakistan army staged an offensive in Swat last week. These are the first significant arrests for the Swat operation, which had previously come under criticism for failing to detain any top Taliban figures, despite labelling the operation as a success. The Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, is still at large.

Obama hopes to restart middle east peace process

US President Barack Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in an attempt to restart the aborted peace process. Obama will meet with each leader separately prior to a joint meeting to try to resolve the issue of Israeli settlements, which has persisted to be a sticking point in the negotiations. A senior US official reiterated Obama's ‘personal commitment to this issue' and vouched for his determination to ‘continue to narrow the gaps' between the two countries' positions.

As political negotiations commence, tensions remain high in the two countries, after two Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank fire on Monday. A Hamas militant and a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were killed in northern Gaza, medics reported, as Israeli tanks attacked a Hamas-run enclave near Jabaliya. The Israel military reported that the attack was directed at a group of Palestinians seen planting a bomb at the Gaza border. The Israeli attack came two hours after rockets were fired overnight into Israel from Gaza, without causing injury or damage.

US General warns of mission failure in Afghanistan

The US will be facing ‘an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible' if it does not significantly increase its forces in Afghanistan within the next twelve months. This blunt assessment is found in General Stanley McChrystal's confidential Afghanistan report, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post on Monday. McChrystal warns Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to whom the report is directed, that without an increase in forces and a rapidly implemented counterinsurgency strategy, defeat in Afghanistan is likely. The assessment paints a bleak picture of the situation in Afghanistan, describing the Taliban insurgency as a strong and sophisticated enemy and Afghanistan's government as corrupt.

McChrystal's report, along with a number of other options, is currently under consideration by the US President Obama, who has publicly indicated that he will not commit more troops to the conflict until he has ‘absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.' <!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } A:link { so-language: zxx } -->
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