Moscow Defense Brief

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#6 (68), 2018


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Armed Conflicts

Civil War in Somalia


The civil war in Somalia has lasted for 11 years. After the events of 1993 the world community forgot about the country for many years. Somalia returned to the limelight only after the United States listed it as one of the eight countries supporting international terrorism.

Reports arose in November 2001 that the United States might launch an anti-terrorist operation in Somalia. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the end of last year called Somalia a potential target along with Yemen and Sudan. Rumsfeld said Somalia is a country where Al Qaeda leaders and rebels have spent rather much time.1

Several months have passed, but the United States and its allies have been footdragging on the beginning of the operation. US and German naval ships have blocked the Somali coast and are checking the rare ships that still enter the semi-destroyed ports of Somalia for Taliban and Al Qaeda militants fleeing from Afghanistan. US aviation controls the Somali air space. The French and German contingents are ready to act from neighboring Djibouti. Probably, the operation will never begin because Washington seems to have fully realized the danger that its troops in Somalia may simply get bogged down in a civil war on the side of one of the rival factions. Nevertheless, Americans are being waited for there, and each conflicting side is sure that in the event of a US landing it will be supported.

Civil war causes and beginning

Somalia proclaimed its independence in 1960. In 1969 Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a coup and became a dictator. In fact, his rule lasted for over 20 years and covered most of the history of Somalia as an independent integrated state.

Barre's policy of persecuting dissenters, political assassinations and ethnic purges resulted in the appearance of a strong opposition which launched an armed struggle. However, in 1976 Siad Barre took the first step to his fall when he decided to attack Ethiopia to seize the province of Ogaden populated mainly by Somalis.

The beginning of the war was very successful for Somalia and Somali troops occupied the entire territory of Ogaden. But after the Soviet Union decided to come to Ethiopia's side, the situation changed radically. Ethiopia received enormous quantities of weaponry from the Soviet Union and a 20,000-strong military contingent from Cuba.2 In 1978 the war ended with Somalia's defeat. It undermined the Somali economy; the Soviet Union stopped its economic and military assistance.

Siad Barre's second mistake was that he started harassing the northern provinces. The north of Somalia known as Somaliland is a former British colony while the south was an Italian. Somaliland is populated mainly by the Ishaak tribe while Barre belonged to the Darod tribe. Even though Somalia has one language - Somali and a one religion - Islam, the country is torn by irreconcilable tribal contradictions. Refugees from Ogaden settling in Somaliland had a certain impact on the situation. Barre decided to use the contradictions between the refugees and the Ishaak tribe to strip the latter of their traditional monopoly for cattle deliveries to countries of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden and started recruiting his own army from among refugees from Ogaden.

Government troops launched ethnic purges in the north. To protect themselves the northerners set up the Somali National Movement (SNM) and the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). The insurgents had their bases in Ethiopia and had official support from Addis-Ababa. However, the situation changed in 1988 when Siad Barre and Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam signed a treaty of nonaggression and noninterference in each other's internal affairs. All SNM training camps and bases were closed and most of the movement leaders arrested.

The SNM leadership set up the United Liberation Forces and on May 27, 1988 (many people in Somalia regard this day as the official beginning of the civil war) insurgents captured the strategic cities of Burao, Hargeysa, Erigavo and Borama. In a month of fighting over 10,000 government troops were killed and huge arms depots captured. At the beginning there were merely 2,000 armed insurgents3 but later they were joined by deserters and political prisoners released from jail.

Siad Barre declared the uprising in the north a mutiny of the Ishaak tribe against the unity of Somalia. However, government troops failed to suppress the resistance. Up to 50,000 civilians4 died in the fighting, mainly under bombs. Finally government troops managed to recapture all key strategic facilities in the north, but the SNM had already launched a guerilla war and Siad Barre could no longer exercise true control over north Somalia.

To make things worse, political emigrants in Italy set up a strong opposition movement - the United Somali Congress (USC) which launched resistance to the regime in south Somalia that had traditionally been more loyal to the government. In fact it was also a tribal association set up by the Hawiya tribe. In 1990 Siad Barre arrested most of the group's leaders. On the day of their trial a spontaneous demonstration started in Mogadishu and the president had to release many of the arrested.

Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidiid became the key figure in USC. He set up the most combat capable formations of insurgents in Somalia calling them the Somali National Alliance (SNA) who ousted troops loyal to Siad Barre from Mogadishu. In January 1991 the dictator had to flee to his home province of Gedo where even his own tribe did not support him but decided to defend itself and set up the Somali National Front (SNF) the military wing of which started fighting USC formations. The main hostilities took place around the key port in south Somalia Chisimayu. SNF emissaries started secretly buying arms and diesel fuel in neighboring Kenya, spending $27 million for the purpose.5 Nevertheless, USC easily routed its new enemies.

Meanwhile, USC itself split up. USC leaders elected Mohammed Ali Mahdi from the Hawiya tribe the president of Somalia to replace Siad Barre who had fled. However, Aidiid's clan that also belongs to the Hawiya tribe did not accept Mahdi and former allies started conflicting among themselves.

In November 1991 serious fighting broke out between the groups of Aidiid and Mahdi in Mogadishu. In Somaliland the Ishaak tribe and the SNM realizing that the situation was running into a blind alley announced that they would boycott any conferences or forums held by USC, i.e. the Hawiya tribe. On May 17, 1991 SNM and Ishaak declared their independence and the formation of the republic of Somaliland. And a civil war of its own began there because some groups favor full independence and others - an alliance with Somalia. Gen. Aidiid supported the latter.

In February 1992 in New York Aidiid and Mahdi signed a cease-fire agreement. On April 24, 1992 the UN Security Council announced a peacekeeping operation in Somalia. By that time some 300,000 people had died of war and famine in Somalia and 2 million had become refugees.6 The country was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. Hence, the UN Security Council approved resolution N751 on the establishment of the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) comprising a 50-strong military observer mission in Mogadishu. Later it was decided to send UN forces to four operational zones: Berbera, Boosaaso, Mogadishu and Chisimayu. Their final size was 4,269 persons.7 The first UN team arrived in Mogadishu on September 14, 1992.

Insurgents against the UN

However, the UN failed to agree with the conflicting sides in Mogadishu. On October 28, 1992 Gen. Aidiid declared that the UNOSOM Pakistani battalion could no longer remain in Mogadishu. Later his artillery opened fire at UNOSOM troops controlling the airport, the troops of Ali Mahdi - at ships with food trying to enter port Mogadishu. As a result UNOSOM had to open reply fire.

On October 3, 1992 the UN Security Council approved US proposals of rendering military assistance to create safe conditions for the UN effort in Somalia. The operation was conducted under UN auspices with the United States assuming the main part in it. The UNITAF unified task force comprised almost 30,000 servicemen form the United States8 , 1,700 from France, 2,000 from Italy, 900 from Canada and also contingents from almost 20 other countries. The United States was in charge of the joint command of the operation codenamed Restore Hope. Beginning with December 9, 1992 UNITAF troops, primarily Americans assumed control over 40% of the territory, airports in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Beledweyne.

Even though the task of restoring order and stopping hostilities between the conflicting sides was not reached, the UN concluded that on the whole the operation had succeeded and its military component was becoming less important. Hence it decided to place UNOSOM-2 in charge of further efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia. Its staff was supposed to concentrate its entire attention on humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of the country solely by methods of political reconciliation. After that the UN got in trouble. On May 4, 1993 it decided to resume the military operation. Its objectives were quite vague and the actions of the allies were poorly coordinated. The main purposes were to separate the conflicting sides and suppress the resistance of the irreconcilable. However, this implied the disarmament of the insurgents, which was absolutely impossible. In addition, UN troops were supposed to carry out police functions in restoring order in Mogadishu. There began inevitable clashes with the local population provoked by the insurgents.

In clashes with armed Somali groups 24 Pakistani and 35 American peacekeepers were killed. By March 1994 all American troops had been pulled out of Somalia. However, a year later they returned. Approximately 1,000 American marines and 350 Italians conducted the United Shield operation. They covered the withdrawn of the UN peacekeeping force that was carried out without losses.9 On March 3, 1995 after two years of futile efforts and having spent $2 billion, the United Nations evacuated all its troops and civilian personnel from Somalia, failing to carry out a single task it had put forward.

The war continues

Hostilities in south Somalia resumed after the withdrawal of the UN force. In the de facto independent Somaliland in the north the situation was calmer. In the south groupings with varying degrees of success fought for control over Mogadishu, port Chisimayu and areas around the towns of Baidoa and Gedo.

Immediately after the UN pullout conflicting groups tried to reach agreement but Gen. Aidiid again blasted the budding consensus. In June 1995 he convened a conference of his own supporters and they elected him the new president of Somalia. The conference also elected five vice presidents and sixty members of the new Cabinet.

USC became an illusion. Aidiid's main rival Ali Mahdi set up his own Somali Salvation Movement (SSF). Otherwise everything remained the same. Every year all other warlords held conferences attempting to agree and set up a kind of a common government but ran into a blind alley because they pursued only their narrow clan interests. Consequently, every district started forming its own rudimentary government bodies and tiny police forces consisting of people trained by UN instructors. There was no judicial system and criminals were tried by councils of elders according to Sharia laws.

Gen. Aidiid bent every effort to beat his rivals. At the beginning of 1996 with only 60 militants he recaptured Baidoa and in July tried to oust Ali Mahdi from Mogadishu. However, on June 25, 1996 he was wounded in street fighting and died of wounds on August 1. Two days later the elders of Habr Gedir clan and SNA declared his son Hussein the heir of the general. The choice surprised everyone - enemies as well as supporters. Former US marine corporal Hussein Mohammed Farah Aidiid had lived with his mother in south California since he was 14, had became a US national and in December 1992 together with other American marines landed in Mogadishu. For three weeks Hussein was his father's interpreter and a liaison officer between American troops and his father's headquarters. When the situation started deteriorating, he was sent back home. After that Gen. Aidiid routed US crack troops and became Washington's worst enemy. But this fact didn't affect Hussein who returned to his motherland. It was he who led the successful recapture of Baidoa.

Aidiid, Jr. was declared a leader in the hope that as a US national he would be able to convince Washington that Aidiid's group had become pro-American and thus receive assistance. However, at that time the United States no longer wanted to interfere in anything. On the whole Aidiid, Jr. was less influential than his father, so since the end of 1996 SNA has been losing its positions.

All groupings reached approximate parity; several new tribal movements appeared trying to oust the old fighters. The Rahanwein tribe set up the Rahanwein Resistance Army and in June 1999 recaptured Baidoa, its tribal capital, from Aidiid.

A new state - Puntland - appeared in the northeast of the country. In July 1998 its leaders declared that they did not insist on full independence like Somaliland but would defend their autonomy. Punt is the name under which Somalia was known in ancient times to Greeks and Egyptians. Thus, the founders of Puntland hinted that they were the true Somalis and therefore should live separately. Guerillas fighting against everyone set up Jubbaland in the south along the Jubba River on the border with Kenya. So Somalia proper was reduced to central provinces and the territory around Mogadishu.

Somalia today

A conference on national peace and reconciliation in Somalia was held in June 2000 in the town of Arta, Djibouti. The delegates represented all clans and sections of the Somali population. They approved a charter of forming a transitional national administration for a term of three years and elected a 245-strong transitional assembly (parliament). On August 26, 2000 the assembly elected Abdiqasim Salad Hassan the provisional president of Somalia. A graduate of the biological department of Moscow State University Abdiqasim until 1969 was in opposition, but after the rise of Siad Barre to power held a number of government posts from industry minister to interior minister and deputy prime minister. The president, like one of his biggest enemies Hussein Aidiid belongs to Habr Gedir clan of the Hawiya tribe. Aidiid did not recognize the new government, calling it the Arta Group after the place of its formation.

Map 1. Somalia

Note: The borders of Somali de-facto independent territories are unofficial and drawn on the basis of the author's findings. The map is prepared by CAST.

In October 2000 the new leadership arrived in Mogadishu. The population tired, of the war, hoped for peace. The death toll of the civil war, famine and epidemics had risen to 400,000.10 Several countries, but not the United States, recognized the new government that managed to assume control over part of Mogadishu and some territories inside the country. Fighting for port Chisimayu continues to this day.

The formation of true government bodies - municipalities, police stations and courts - began with great difficulty in Mogadishu. Under the new constitution the Somali Democratic Republic has given up the rigid presidential system of government of the epoch of Siad Barre and opted for a parliamentary form of government with broad powers vested in the provinces. Negotiations were launched with all de facto independent territories. Somaliland remains unchanged in its attitude and insists on full independence. The actually independent country has an almost 13,000-strong military force.11 In a May 2001 referendum 99% of its population voted for independence. President Abdiqasim has failed in his attempts to persuade the president of Somaliland, Mohammed Ebragim Egal, to sign a federal treaty with Mogadishu.

When president of Puntland Abdullahi Usuf refused to hold planned elections in July 2001, he had to flee from the country and seek assistance from Ethiopia that assigned a unit of 200 servicemen to help him. The president of Somalia is trying to use the conflict to tighten control in the rebellious province.

At the moment Mogadishu is divided into four sectors of influence. The first is controlled by the transitional government, the second by Hussein Aidiid, the third by former treasurer of Gen. Aidiid and currently an irreconcilable enemy of his son Osman Atto, the fourth by a prominent warlord, former ally of Ali Mahdi, Muse Sudi Yalahow. The sector subordinate to the government is controlled not only by its own troops or militia. Many groups have signed cooperation agreements with the government but kept their weapons and combat capable units.

In the middle of January 2002 Osman Atto also announced that he was taking the side of the government but keeping forces loyal to him. He did not disclose his motives but reportedly he had been persuaded to do so by mediators of Ali Mahdi who has gone into the shadow but still remains in touch. Many analysts believe that the present government was formed largely thanks to the support of Ali Mahdi. It was he who helped President Abdiqasim by placing about 10,000 loyal militants under his command.12

President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan believes that the United States can really help, if it takes a balanced decision on an operation in Somalia: "Western television and the press have been kicking a racket lately about alleged terrorist bases in Somalia helping Al Qaeda. Washington and the world community are provoked by our warlords who are interested in the continuation of disorder in Somalia. This is not just their interest, they are also being encouraged by Ethiopia that does not want either Somalia with which it has fought many times to suddenly become a strong state again. However, the pattern that worked in Afghanistan will not work in Somalia. Aidiid and his allies are not the Northern Alliance and we are not the Taliban. We don't feel any guilt and suggest Americans conduct a complete inspection of the country and find at least one single terrorist base."13

Meanwhile, the transitional government is feverishly trying to strengthen its power before the possible U.S. invasion. A 2,000-strong police corps is already operating in the districts of Mogadishu controlled by the government.14 These are the best-armed government-controlled units because they have the right to arm themselves with all the weapons confiscated from the population. A standard olive-color uniform distinguishes them from other groupings whose members wear civilian clothes.

The police do not control the arms market, though. One can buy in the very center of the city a Kalashnikov assault rifle of Soviet make in good condition for $200-300 on the average, Kalashnikovs of Yugoslav or Chinese make are cheaper. Mortars, machine guns, including large-caliber ones, small recoilless guns and any types of ammunition are also available.

The regular pro-government army set up several months ago has almost no weapons. The government does not have the money to buy them. The entire arsenal of the formerly strong Somali army and looted during the civil war, in addition the UN force took away much of it during the withdrawal. The navy has two patrol boats that are now under repairs in Yemen. Army units have combined personnel of about 5,000.15 In the future the size should be boosted to 10,000, which is an impressive figure for Somalia because none of the groupings has more than 5,000 permanently operating militants.

There should be no problems with army officers or generals. In the days of friendship with the USSR Soviet military colleges and academies trained a large number of Somali officers. Chief of staff of the Somali army Gen. Ismail Qassin Naaji has said: "So far we need only forces sufficient to assume final control over Mogadishu. We will probably take to our ranks those who fought and continue to fight on the side of rebellious groups and have not committed grave crimes, but only after a year of training and corresponding ideological inculcation. As for the possible landing of Americans, we have no wish to fight them. We are ready to meet them as friends."16

Meanwhile virtually independent and poorly controlled factions formally recognizing the government constitute the main force of the government. Their attitude depends on whether the government is going to have money or not. There are practically no fiscal sources of it because a system of tax-collection has not been developed yet.

The other reason for the financial difficulties of the new government is that the United States in its drive against terrorism froze all the foreign assets of Somalia's only important financial and telecommunication group Al Barakaat17 through which the administration of President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan received the bulk of the money from the foreign diaspora. The United States also denied Somalia access to the Internet and the international telephone network controlled by companies of the group. Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah responded to this by saying that "by acting that way Americans only aggravate the situation. Now all conflicting groups are waiting for them and our government too. But 1993 already showed an example of how fast feelings can change in Somalia, and the tough stance of the United States may only make things worse for it, if after all it decides to act. Very much time will be needed to change anything in this warring country. And without money we will not advance an inch."18 Currently the tax on the semi-legal imports of the khat - mild drug partly grown in Somalia but mainly flown from Kenya and Ethiopia - constitutes in fact the only source of revenues both for the Somali government and for its opponents.

As for the opposition, after the new government became somewhat stronger, the opposition decided to change its tactics. In January 2001 17 opposition movements and military factions set up the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC). The council was joined even by such old enemies as the grouping of Gen. Aidiid (SNA), the Rahanwein Resistance Army and the Somali Patriotic Movement led by Siad Barre's son-in-law Gen. Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan. Besides, the council attracted the leaders of two Somali quasi-states - Puntland and Jubbaland. Thus, for the first time in 11 years of civil war the entire warring south clearly split not along clan lines but rather along ideological lines into supporters of the government or SRRC.

It is difficult to evaluate the correlation between the opposing forces. SRRC has approximately 30,000 armed supporters, the government up to 20,000.19 The figures are very approximate because everything depends on the money available. Heavy weaponry the same as aircraft and artillery are out of order, there are no repair facilities. The United Nations imposed an embargo on foreign arms deliveries to Somalia. As a result the main type of military hardware now is an open jeep with a large caliber gun on a turret at its back.

Baidoa, the capital of Bay province, 250 kilometers west of Mogadishu is the capital of SRRC. The government claims that Ethiopia funds the SRRC, moreover that not only Ethiopian military advisors but small formations of the Ethiopian army are present in the provinces of Bay, Bakol and Gedo. According to the speaker of the Somali parliament Abadalla Derow Isaaq, "Ethiopia will never leave [Somalia] in peace and will always help those who fight against the government in Somalia. It is unprofitable for us to fight Ethiopia, but some day they will force us [to do so] and then nobody will be able to guarantee anything."20

The area of Baidoa is a typical example of the isolation of Somali communities. The Rahanwein tribe is in charge of central leadership in Baidoa, therefore there are no clan differences. Governor of Bay provinces Ali Aden Qalile thinks that the civil war resulted "in an autonomy with all the attributes of local power, but we [the Rahanwein Resistance Army] are not separatists."21 There are few contacts with other parts of Somalia. Only once a week, on Mondays, under a mutual agreement between the central government and the SRRC the Baidoa-Mogadishu road is opened so that traders from both sides could make their business. Truck convoys are led by sappers who remove mines from a two-kilometer section of the road on the separating line between the conflicting sides.

Ties with international terrorists

In 2001 the United States named Somalia among countries assisting Al Qaeda. Al-Itihad al Islamia group was described as an organization directly connected with Al Qaeda. The United States believes the group helped and continues to help Osama bin Laden and his gunmen and has a serious network in Somalia. Besides, some analysts think the present government supports him. These assumptions rely on information obtained from the Ethiopian authorities and Somali groupings opposed to the government. It is an open secret to everyone that Ethiopia would want neighboring Somalia to remain weak.

Al-Itihad al Islamia appeared in 1991 and at first did not differ from numerous other military groupings. However, while other movements pursued their narrow clan interests, the purpose of the group was to build an Islamic state in Somalia. It failed to become a serious force but due to its fundamentalist outlook immediately attracted the attention of the CIA. CIA officials believe that Al-Itihad was set up in 1991-1992 by Muhammad Atef, a field commander of bin Laden, and that its members ambushed American rangers in October 1993.22 The Ethiopian authorities have accused Al-Itihad of a series of explosions in Addis-Ababa and in Dire-Dawa in 1996, and an attempt to assassinate Ethiopian Transport Minister Abdulla Majid in 1997. The same year Ethiopian troops invaded Gedo province, Somalia, and seized the headquarters of the group in Luuq, killing several hundred militants. Addis-Ababa claimed three truckloads of documents confirming a link between Al-Itihad and Al Qaeda had been captured. However, these documents were never published. There were 26 non-Somalis among the killed and captured: Pakistanis, Afghans and Arabs.23 Al-Itihad is believed to have lost its force ever since and concentrated its efforts on the humanitarian sphere: education, law, health protection, telecommunications and social programs. As for Aidiid and other warlords opposed to the new government, they have directly accused President Abdiqasim of ties with Al-Itihad and correspondingly with Al Qaeda.

At the end of 2001 a delegation from the Pentagon arrived in Baidoa and met the leadership of SRRC who submitted Americans with "certain information … sufficient to believing in the existence of terrorist bases in the territory of Somalia and that the new government supports them."24 The opposition hopes that "if they [the United States] begin an operation, Somalis, not Americans or Britons will be its main motive force."25

SRRC claims that Al-Itihad has two bases - in El-Wak in the southwestern province of Gedo and in Las Anod in the northern Puntland.26 According to the Rahanwein Resistance Army, American advisors also visited "a fundamentalist base" in the area of Baidoa. I saw the base: it comprises several warehouses and bunkers, some scaffolding and a semi-dismantled drainage system. There is no evidence of the presence of terrorists. Americans did not make any official statements after visiting it and the other base in Puntland.

The United States has not officially explained its stance yet. Evidently, memories of 1993 are still too strong. Besides, it is not clear what the aim of a landing would be, as not a single terrorist base has been discovered in the territory of Somalia. Members of the most radical Muslim group, Al-Itihad probably connected with Al Qaeda have mixed with the Somali society by becoming doctors, businessmen and politicians. There is no proof of a connection between the new government and Al-Itihad or Al Qaeda, and the government has little semblance with Taliban because it invites American troops to the country itself. Besides, even though supporters of the operation claim that a complete lack of control over the country allows terrorists fleeing from Afghanistan to hide there, it is difficult to imagine that groupings conflicting between themselves will tolerate armed aliens amongst themselves. In any case such presence would immediately become known to everyone in Somalia and consequently to the US intelligence.

However, if after all the United States launches a counter-terrorist operation in Somalia, it is likely to be conducted by small commando groups that will trace and destroy individual terrorists, if such are determined.

Roads to conflict settlement

Cochairman of the SRRC Abdullahi Sheik Ismail has said: "Somalia can no longer be what it used to be…the government system must be revised, the constitution must be revised. The decentralization of power is the right path. A classical Western constitutional system with a vertical system of government … leads to the pressure of the central government over the provinces and as a consequences to war."27 The majority of opposition leaders and even some government members also believe that the country should be revived on the basis of xeer - the traditional Somali system of relations between tribes.

A whole generation of young Somalis with no respect for traditions has grown up during the years of war, of course. However, a general return to traditions and the Muslim religion have been registered lately. Many suggest following the example of the reforms in the north, in Somaliland, that also relied on the traditions of xeer.

However, the new government, hoping to win international recognition wants to have a unified budget, a single army, broad economic infrastructure and therefore cannot rely on clan traditions. Somaliland in the future will also have to take certain steps to centralize the government, otherwise it will be regarded only as a union of clans but not as a state. Nevertheless, at an intermediate stage the main purpose of which is reconciliation, xeer and Islam as uniting factors may play a decisive role because not one of the rival groupings is capable of winning and uniting the country.

Table 1. Key Groups in Somalia

First Active

Operational Locations


Military Strength


Somaliland armed groups: Somali National Movement, Somali Democratic Alliance, United Somali Front, United Somali Party

Second half of 1980s

North Somalia

Formation of inde­pendent state

Total number of militants 12,900

Somali National Movement is the biggest: about 6,000 men. Con­flicted at different stages of civil war, but now constitute a union for the protection of Somaliland

Somali National Alliance

Late 1980s, as part of the United Somali Congress

Part of Moga­dishu and south Somalia

Seizure of power in Somalia

Some 9,000, ac­cording to dif­ferent estimates

Led by Hussein Aidiid. Remains quite strong but has started losing positions and therefore aligned with former rivals, such as the Rahanwein Resistance Army.

Rahanwein Resistance Army

Early 1990s

Southwest Somalia

Defense of tribal autonomy

No less than 10,000

Weak at first, it has developed into a mighty force. Currently in alli­ance with all groups in the south not recognizing the new govern­ment. Member of the Somali Rec­onciliation and Restoration Council.

Somali National Front, Somali Patriotic Movement

Early 1990s

South Somalia

Defense of the Darod tribe

Some 3,000

Led by Gen. Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan, son-in-law of Siad Barre. Morgan enjoys great au­thority not only in his tribe but throughout So­malia. Therefore though small in size it remains a serious force. Belongs to the So­mali Reconciliation and Restora­tion Council.

Faction of Osman Atto


Part of Mogadishu


No more than 4,000

Well-funded. At end of January 2000 Osman Atto took the gov­ernemnt side but retained control over its territory, arsenals and formations.

Faction of Muse Sudi Yalahow


Part of Mogadishu

Defense of the clan


Lost several formations later when their commanders took government side.

Puntland armed groups


Northeast Somalia

Defense of autonomy

Unknown. Ac­cording to some Somali field commanders, no more than 5,000

Involved in talks with central government

Jubbaland armed groups

Late 1990s

Somali territories bordering on Kenya

Defense of independence


Members of the Somali Reconcilia­tion and Restoration Council.

Transitional National Government


Part of Mogadishu and small territories in the south


About 20,000, which include a 2,000-strong, po­lice corps, a 5,000-strong army, and vari­ous military fac­tions that have recog­nized the lawful­ness of the gov­ernment. The fac­tion of Ali Mahdi is one of the strongest with 10,000 men.

The sole recognized government of Somalia.

1 S. Castle. "US general says Somalia is potential target," Independent, 20.12.2001.

2 Ibid, p.120.

3 Ibid, p. 162.

4 Report of the group on Somalia, International Conference on Conflict Mediation and Consolidation of Peace, Bonn, 31.03.1995.

5 I.S. Samatar, "Somalia: a Nation in Turmoil." Minority Rights Group bulletin, August 1991, p. 21.

6 Blue Helmets - a review of United Nations Peacekeeping, UN, 1996.

7 Ibid.

8 T. G. Carpenter, "Setting a dangerous precedent in Somalia," Cato Foreign Policy Briefing, No. 20, 18.12.1992.

9 Blue Helmets - a review of United Nations Peacekeeping, UN, 1996.

10 Approximate figure, but both the transitional government and opposition stick to it.

11 Military Balance 2001-2002, IISS, p. 276.

12 Ibid.

13 Interview with the author, Mogadishu, 07.01.2002.

14 Figure named by police chief of Mogadishu and Banaadir province Abdi Awale Abdiol.

15 The official figures of the transitional government of the Somali Democratic Republic.

16 Interview with the author, Mogadishu, 07.01.2002.

17 www.strategypage.com.

18 Interview with the author, Mogadishu, 07.01.2002.

19 Author's estimate based on conversations with group leaders.

20 Interview with the author, Mogadishu, 10.01.2002.

21 Interview with the author, Baidoa, 11.01.2002.

22 G. Gordon, "Group formed amid the chaos of Somalia," Star Tribune, 14.10.2001.

23 D. B. Ottaway, Th. E. Ricks, "Somalia draws anti-terrorism focus," Washington Post. 04.11.2001.

24 Author's interview Gen. Mohammed Morgan, Baidoa, 13.01.2002.

25 Ibid.

26 www.strategypage.com.

27 Interview with the author, Baidoa, 12.01.2002.

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