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Cablegate: Somalia - Clan Militias Battle to Control Kismayo

Joseph F Trimble 09/05/2008 07:41:11 AM From DB/Inbox: Joseph F
Trimble

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS SENSITIVE NAIROBI 02032
CXNAIROB:
ACTION: POL
INFO: AID-UNCL AID RSO REF RA DCM DAO CONS AMB FBI
DHS PAS KSLO ECON

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB:MRANNEBERGER
DRAFTED: POL:JDAVISBA
CLEARED: POL:JTRIMBLE DAO:SGRUBBS RA:TBETONI

VZCZCNAI684
RR RUEHC RUCNSOM RUEHRN RUCNDT RHEHNSC RHMFIUU
RHMFIUU
DE RUEHNR #2032 2391436
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261436Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6876
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME 0375
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7355
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS NAIROBI 002032

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E AND A/S FRAZER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM SO
SUBJECT: Somalia - Clan Militias Battle to Control Kismayo

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On August 22, a loose coalition of clan
militias, cooperating with remnants of the former Islamic Courts
Union (ICU) and some al-Shabaab elements drove warlord and Member of
Parliament Barre "Hirale" out of Kismayo, southern Somalia's major
port city. Upwards of 100 fighters and civilians may have been
killed, and 300 wounded in three days of intense fighting. Contrary
to media reports that al-Shabaab has taken control of the city, the
coalition is mainly driven by sub-clan interests. Reports Hirale
represented the Transitional Federal Government are exaggerated.
This most recent battle is the latest chapter of Kismayo's ongoing
saga of violent sub-clan rivalry. With its strategic location and
its agricultural wealth, opportunistic armed groups have long sought
to control the port and its environs, but it is unclear who will
gain a long-term victory. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On August 22, a local Darood/Ogadeni clan militia, leading
a loose coalition of minor Darood militias, former Union of Islamic
Courts fighters and some al-Shabaab, ousted rival warlord Barre
Hirale's Darood/Marehan militia from Kismayo, an important port city
in Somalia's southern Juba region. Rival militias and Islamists
banded together expressly to defeat Hirale and his Marehan allies,
who were resented for the lawlessness and insecurity that marked
their 13 months in control of Kismayo. Undoubtedly, the fighting
was also about control of Kismayo's air and sea ports, a major
source of revenue. Reports vary, but upwards of 100 fighters and
civilians may have been killed, and 300 wounded in the fighting, a
significant number of casualties even by Somalia's standards.

3. (SBU) Hirale, a longtime fixture of Juba politics, is a member of
parliament and was Transitional Federal Government (TFG) defense
minister before the ICU came to power in late 2006. Although he
claimed to represent the TFG in Kismayo, in fact he had violently
overthrown a TFG-appointed rival in July 2007, and had only
superficial links to the TFG. Hirale has reportedly fled with his
militia to the Gedo region, where he may be gathering strength for a
counter-attack. One of our contacts told us that Hirale contacted
TFG leaders for help, and is requesting Ethiopian troops rush to
Kismayo to help him dislodge al-Shabaab and other militia commanders
that are still in the area.

4. (SBU) Reminiscent of their rise to power in 2006, newly-arrived
Islamists promised to bring order to the city. However, this new
coalition is not directly linked to former ICU leader and Alliance
for the Re-liberation of Somalia Chairman Sheikh Sherif, who has
denied that his fighters were involved in the battle in Kismayo.
Al-Shabaab leaders Mukhtar Robow and Hassan "al-Turki" Abdullah
Hersi are reportedly in Kismayo, and made public appearances in the
city as the fighting wound down. Al-Turki allegedly told Kismayo
elders that he came to "liberate" them from an oppressive militia
and remove roadblocks and other impediments to the city's normal
functioning. Islamists emphasized that Kismayo's residents are free
to form their own administration.

5. (SBU) Kismayo has been the locus of a long-standing conflict
between the region's Darood sub-clans. The city has changed hands
several times in the recent past and some have estimated that it has
been controlled by 30 different regimes (mostly clan-based) since
1991. The Darood/Ogadeni, last week's winners, have a power base
outside Kismayo, and are unlikely to be welcome for the long term by
Kismayo's citizenry, the majority of whom are Darood/Marehan. Our
contacts question how long this Kismayo coalition of convenience
between local clans, ICU remnants, and al-Shabaab can hold together,
given the city's past, its clan makeup, and likelihood of
disagreements over sharing power and port revenues.

6. (SBU) Embassy contacts tell us victorious Darood clan leaders
are wary of the Islamists' presence. After a convincing win against
Hirale, they least want to submit to another armed force. We've
heard Darood clansmen close to President Yusuf, have approached
their fellow clansmen in Kismayo about closer cooperation with the
TFG and endorsement of the Djibouti process. However, should the
various leaders who are now claiming victory in Kismayo choose to
establish closer ties to the Islamists, al-Shabaab may gain a
stronger foothold and strategic assets in a region where they are
gaining influence. The dust is still settling and neither the
immediate nor long-term outcomes in Kismayo are certain.

RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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