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Cablegate: Somalia - Violence Increases in Advance of Likely Offensive

VZCZCXRO4897
RR RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHNR #0346/01 0471749
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161746Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0864
INFO SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 000346

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR AF/E, AF/RSA, AND A/S CARSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV SO MOPS MARR EAID
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - VIOLENCE INCREASES IN ADVANCE OF LIKELY OFFENSIVE

REF: NAIROBI 155

Summary

--------------

1. (SBU) Al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam have increased their attacks
against TFG and AMISOM positions in Mogadishu. In an apparent
effort to pre-empt the TFG's long-planned Mogadishu offensive, on
February 12 and 13 al-Shabaab launched attacks from northern
Mogadishu neighborhoods and on February 15, claimed responsibility
for an assassination attempt against Minister of State for Defense
Yusuf Mohamed Siyad "Inde Adde." Al-Shabaab mortar attacks and the
TFG/AMISOM response caused civilian casualties but have failed to
yield any new areas of control for either the TFG or al-Shabaab.
UNHCR reports that since February 1 at least 13,000 Mogadishu
citizens have fled the fighting. In addition to dozens of
combatant casualties on both sides, the UN reports that at least 80
civilians were killed in the first two weeks of February. As the
TFG prepares for its offensive against al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, it
is maintaining key positions with newly trained recruits while the
city's residents prepare for the worst. End Summary.

Violent Clashes Increase in Mogadishu

--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (SBU) In recent weeks, al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam have
increased the frequency and intensity of violent attacks against
TFG and AMISOM positions in Mogadishu. Beginning February 10,
al-Shabaab has repeatedly attacked TFG and AMISOM troops with small
arms and mortar fire, provoking the TFG and AMISOM to respond in
kind. Mortar rounds launched by both sides have killed an
estimated two dozen civilians and wounded many more in recent days.
Most believe that these skirmishes are in response to February 6
TFG troop movements (reftel), and are extremists' attempt to
disrupt a promised TFG/AMISOM offensive in Mogadishu. Our contacts
report that al-Shabaab is building its arsenal and concentrating
its fighters in several strategic areas in and around the city.

3. (SBU) Sources have told us the TFG troop movement has prompted
al-Shabaab to reinforce from their strongholds in the southern
parts of Mogadishu to the northern neighborhoods, to directly
engage recently repositioned TFG troops. During the skirmishes,
the TFG troops reportedly performed better than in the past,
drawing on recent training in Djibouti and with AMISOM trainers at
the TFG's Jazeera camp, according to our contacts. Continuing
their attacks on the airwaves, Hisbul Islam and al-Shabaab leaders
publicly appealed to Mogadishu's residents for support against the
TFG and AMISOM in what they termed a "religious obligation." The
TFG responded to these appeals, effectively using Radio Mogadishu
to continue their own information campaign against these groups.

Assassination Attempt Targets State Minister of Defense

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
-----------------

4. (SBU) Al-Shabaab has continued its attacks against high-level
TFG officials. On February 15, State Minister for Defense Yusuf
Mohamed Siyad "Indha Adde" narrowly escaped at least one suicide
car bomb attack against his convoy in Mogadishu. Reports still
vary, but as many as eight civilians and two TFG troops may have
been killed. Addressing the press immediately following the
attack, the Minister of State said that al-Shabaab would not deter
him from his mission to "restore law and order." He told
journalists two car bombs were used against him on February 15. A

NAIROBI 00000346 002 OF 002


minibus coincidentally obstructed the first car bomb as the bomber
sped toward the minister's convoy. The minister told the press
that he saw a second oncoming car and in the confusion following
the first explosion, ran into a nearby hotel. Inde Adde said that
moments later, this second car also exploded.

5. (SBU) The bomb or bombs caused extensive property damage,
including to the offices of USAID implementing partner Education
Development Center (EDC), which provides education programs via
radio and a youth livelihood program in Mogadishu. No EDC staff
were injured. EDC reported by email, "The explosion created an
atmosphere of terror and panic in the area with no public movement
as government forces arrived at the scene and sealed off the road."


Civilian Displacement Continues

--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Mogadishu's residents have begun to flee in the face of
increasingly violent skirmishes between government troops and
extremists. UNHCR reported that since February 1, at least 13,000
internally displaced persons (IDPs) have moved into safer
neighborhoods within the capital and into the Afgoye road corridor,
joining over 365,000 people displaced by earlier fighting. On
February 15, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden
expressed "grave concern" over high civilian casualties and
population displacement. According to Bowden, fighting in
Mogadishu in the first two weeks of February killed an estimated 80
civilians. UNHCR reports that since May 2009, when armed
extremists launched their first offensive against President
Sharif's administration, more than 250,000 persons have been forced
to flee Mogadishu.

Comment

--------------

7. (SBU) We will continue to monitor the increase in fighting, and
will stress to the TFG and AMISOM the need to avoid civilian
casualties. In particular, we will continue to object strongly to
TFG and AMISOM use of mortar fire in populated areas. USAID is
examining the growth of IDPs and investigating NGO partners'
reports al-Shabaab is blocking food assistance to IDPs in the
Afgoye corridor.
RANNEBERGER

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