Cablegate: Targeted Attacks in Baidoa

DE RUEHNR #2333/01 2841211
R 101211Z OCT 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) The last three months have seen the number of armed
attacks targeting Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
parliamentarians or their perceived allies increase in
Baidoa, the seat of the TFG's parliament, and in Mogadishu.
There have been high-profile attacks in the southern coastal
town of Merca, and in the Hiraan region, as well. Al-Shabaab
has been quick to take credit for much of the violence, but
it is by no means clear whether the group, or opportunists
anxious to be associated with Al-Shabaab, are actually
responsible. The uptick in violence has prompted UNDP to
pull its five remaining international staff from Baidoa, and
an emboldened Al-Shabaab has pressured the NGOs International
Medical Corps (IMC) and CARE to suspend operations in Bay and
Bakool (reftel). Apparent Al-Shabaab gains have sparked
resistance from the elders of clans affected by the violence
and by efforts to end humanitarian aid. Their unhappiness
seems to have sparked al-Shabaab, as of October 9, to make at
least a rhetorical retreat. End summary.

Number of Attacks Increases

2. (SBU) During the week of October 6, contacts in Bay and
Bakool regions confirmed that the last three weeks have seen
more frequent attacks on Transitional Federal Government
(TFG)-associated targets, and reported that "most" of the
towns in the regions were now run by Al-Shabaab-affiliated
administrators although not, they noted, by Al-Shabaab
itself. The Shabaab militias in Bay and Bakool numbered
between five and eight hundred, but operate in groups of
twenty to forty that circulated constantly through the
regions, we were told.

3. (SBU) The heavier presence of Ethiopian-trained TFG police
in Baidoa, the "capital" of Bay region, as well as of
Ethiopian National Defense Force meant that most of the
recent reported attacks there have been remote or
hit-and-run. Some MPs ascribed the recent uptick in attacks
to increasingly lackluster patrolling by TFG security forces
demoralized by the failure of the interim government to pay
them. A partial list of some of the recent incidents in
Baidoa gives a sense of their increasingly targeted nature:

-- On September 19, unknown assailants lobbed a hand grenade
at a police patrol car, wounding two policemen and five

-- September 25 saw an armed attack on a Baidoa police
station and mortar attacks on the homes of two

-- On September 30, a roadside explosion near Baidoa's khat
market killed a child and wounded two police officers.

-- On September 30, Sheikh Ali Madobe was assassinated as he
left a Baidoa mosque. Sheikh Ali had close business
associations with TFG Parliament Speaker Sheikh Adan "Madobe."

-- On October 5, a grenade attack on the residence of a
Somali-national ICRC official killed a security guard.

-- On October 8, a nighttime mortar attack on the Speaker's
residence wounded members of a neighboring family of nine.

-- On the same day, the head of the National Intelligence
Agency was assassinated while at the city's central market.

4. (SBU) The fraying security has spurred UNDP to extract its
five international employees. Parliamentarians, in Nairobi
for a National Democratic Institute-conducted workshop, told
us the week of October 6 that they, and others in Baidoa
thought to be partial to the TFG, were the targets of an
intimidation campaign intended to further limit its
legitimacy. TFG Minister of Agriculture Mustafa Duhulow
disagreed that the goal was intimidation, telling us after
arriving from Baidoa October 7, "they don't want to
intimidate us, they just want to kill us." One
parliamentarian told us that al-Shabaab operatives conducted
hit-and-run attacks from Baidoa's outskirts. The loss of
innocent life and the attackers' lack of courage, he alleged,
was fostering resentment toward the extremists among the

NAIROBI 00002333 002 OF 002

town's residents.

5. (SBU) In advance of the October 27-29 IGAD summit on
Somalia, the TFG has attempted to downplay deteriorating
security. In an October 7 Nairobi press conference, TFG
Foreign Minister Ali Jama described circumstances in Baidoa
as "not hopeless," although he later agreed that the city was
too dangerous to play host to visiting delegations.

Elder Unhappiness With Insecurity

6. (SBU) Deteriorating security spurred the Digil and Mirifle
Council of Elders to convene on October 6. They discussed
threats to aid agencies and the problems in Baidoa. Chairman
Ibrahim Muse Herow condemned attacks on aid workers, the
looting of NGO offices, and the harassment of aid workers in
the region. Herow accused unnamed external actors of
undermining the well-being of the local communities of Bay
and Bakool. Speaker of the Parliament Sheikh Adan "Madobe"
separately also condemned the attacks in Baidoa at an October
5 press conference, and TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf used
his Id remarks to insist that those engaged in violence have
"nothing to do with Islam."

7. (SBU) One elder who has been publicly critical of
strong-arm tactics against the TFG and local aid agencies,
Hiraan Council of Elders Chairman Da'ar Hersi Hoshow, was
assassinated on October 7. His death, the October 6 attack
on a UN vehicle near Merca, and the continuing carnage in
Mogadishu have created the impression that al-Shabaab, or
those claiming to be affiliated with it, are in the
ascendancy, but there are signs that the chaos in Mogadishu
and the crackdown on humanitarian work are creating clan
antipathy towards the radical organizations. In addition to
statements by the Digil and Mirifle and the Hiraan Chairman,
the Hawiye Tradition and Unity Council (HTUC) on October 5
blamed al-Shabaab for the closure of Mogadishu airport and
created a 27-member committee to investigate security in
Banadir region.

Resentment Causes al-Shabaab to Retreat

8. (SBU) Elder criticism and worsening humanitarian
circumstances appear to have caused al-Shabaab to take a more
conciliatory tack. In an October 9 press conference,
al-Shabaab spokesman Mukhtar Robow denied that his
organization had threatened HTUC elders, suggested a
willingness to re-open Mogadishu airport, insisted that
al-Shabaab was not opposed to all aid agencies, and contended
that some of the violence allegedly perpetrated by al-Shabaab
was actually the work of others, whom he promised would be
arrested and tried according to Sharia law.

© Scoop Media

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