The Triangle of Death: Central Africa’s New Hub of Regional Instability

Andrew McGregor

December 16, 2010

As peacekeepers pull out of a notorious and remote corner of Africa known as the “Triangle of Death,” bands of gunmen are pouring in to fill the void in security. At the core of this problem is a former French colony that became a nation-state despite a lack of viability and is now rapidly collapsing, offering guerrillas, terrorists and outlaws a relatively risk-free haven to conduct their operations.

Birao 1(BBC)


A land-locked nation of 4.4 million people, the Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries on earth. As Oubangui-Chari, it was part of the French African Empire from the late 19th century to 1960, when it gained independence as the Central African Republic (CAR). The region’s pre-independence leader, Barthelmy Boganda, did not believe the CAR could become a viable independent state and instead sought to make it part of an envisioned “United States of Latin Africa,” uniting the former Central African colonies of Belgium, France, Portugal and Spain. Boganda and his dream of a united Central Africa died shortly before independence when his plane exploded in 1959. Agriculture dominates the local economy, though there are a number of unexploited resource reserves.  Forestry and diamond mining account for most of the CAR’s slim export revenue. France protects its interests and citizens in Bangui with an infantry company of 200 legionnaires belonging to the 2e Régiment Étranger d’Infanterie.

The CAR is best known in the West for the antics and atrocities of its former ruler, “Emperor” Jean-Bédel Bokassa, a former captain in the French Colonial Army who squandered the nation’s meager wealth in ruling the re-named “Central African Empire” in an imperial style from 1966 to 1979.  In recent years the political violence in the CAR has become closely tied to violence in neighboring Chad and Darfur.

Battle for Birao

On November 24, rebels belonging to the Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix (Convention of Patriots for Peace and Justice – CPJP), supported by fighters formerly belonging to Chadian rebel movements, took the strategically important town of Birao and captured its military commander after a short battle with troops of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (Central African Armed Forces – FACA) (AFP, November 24). The rebels had previously attacked Birao in July. The CPJP began operations in 2009 and since then has seized a number of towns and villages in the CAR’s northeast (BBC, November 27, 2009). Rebels claimed the defeated FACA troops belonged to the Presidential Guard, the only CAR military unit of any real worth (AFP, November 25).

Heavy rains prevented CAR forces from returning to the town after it was seized, though most of the country’s best troops were busy in the capital of Bangui preparing for the December 1 military parade commemorating the 50th anniversary of the independence of the CAR. On taking Birao, CPJP head of operations Abdoulaye Issene declared, “We have seized 48 prisoners and recovered a big stock of weapons. Birao is taken, but our target is Bangui” (Reuters, November 24).

Units of Chad’s military based in Abéché crossed the border with the CAR in late November on their way to Birao. A CPJP statement described a Chadian force including tanks and helicopters that began to bomb Birao, forcing the evacuation of the rebels on November 30. Chad’s army chief-of-staff, General Alain Mbaidodenande Djionadji, told reporters, “We affirm that the Chadian Army has exercised its right of pursuit by destroying the remaining mercenaries who have involved themselves with unidentified adventurers who were holed up in Birao” (AFP, November 30; Reuters, December 1). The town’s population of 8,000 was forced to spend a week in the bush without water, food or shelter. Food stocks kept in the town were looted during the fighting, leaving nothing for returnees (IRIN, December 7).

In a belated attempt to assert sovereignty in the area, CAR government spokesmen were quick to claim the retaking of Birao as a victory for the FACA, saying 65 rebels had been killed in the battle. According to CAR spokesman Fidele Ngouandjika, CAR troops had retaken the town without the help of foreign forces, “contrary to the mendacious allegations” broadcast by foreign media sources (AFP, December 2). This declaration ran contrary to statements from both the Chadian military and the CPJP.

The former leader of the CPJP was Charles Massi, the minister of mines and agriculture in the government of President Ange-Félix Patassé, who was supported by Libyan troops and 300 Congolese rebels under Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is currently on trial for war crimes in The Hague. Massi took to the bush after Patassé’s government was overthrown in 2003 by General François Bozizé, the current ruler of the CAR.  After being arrested by Chadian authorities, Massi is believed to have died in January 2010 after extensive torture at the Central African prison of Bossembélé. President Bozizé has close ties with the Chadian regime of Idriss Déby and came to power with Chadian military assistance. Chad supplies many members of the Presidential Guard, the best-equipped element of the CAR armed forces.

The Peacekeepers Depart

A UN peacekeeping mission, the Mission des Nations Unies en République Centrafricaine et au Tchad (MINURCAT), has provided security along the borders of Chad, Darfur and the CAR since 2007. The severely underfunded and undermanned mission has roughly 1,500 uniformed military and police personnel drawn from 35 nations under the military command of Senegal’s Major-General Elhadji Mouhamedou Kandji. The military component of the force was authorized to succeed operations of the European Union’s EUFOR Tchad/RCA, a peacekeeping force of 3,700 troops under the command of Ireland’s Lieutenant General Patrick Nash. The majority of the force came from France, with Ireland and Poland also making major contributions. EUFOR Tchad/RCA ended operations in March 2009. Birao was the site of a small EUFOR Tchad/RCA base during the EU deployment.

The decision to withdraw MINURCAT came in May after Chad said it would assume responsibility for security in its territory after criticizing MINURCAT’s slow deployment and apparent inability to provide security for civilians. Though the peacekeepers had little effect in the northeastern CAR due to small numbers and a limited mandate that prevented them from tackling local bandits, their full withdrawal (scheduled for December 31, though operations ended on October 15) will leave security in the region solely in the hands of the CAR armed forces, which has very little presence in the area. Most of the army, including its best-equipped troops, is kept in the capital of Bangui as protection for the regime against coups, insurrections or civil unrest. President Bozizé is also believed to oppose the presence of international peacekeepers in the CAR, preferring instead to seek financial support for the expansion of the CAR’s armed forces. At the moment, the president cannot count on the complete loyalty of his poorly-equipped army. There are reports of disobedience and refusals by some troops to deploy to dangerous areas of the country, leading to purges of disloyal soldiers (Centrafrique Presse, March 24, March 29; Radio Ndeke Luka [Bangui], March 26).

In the absence of MINURCAT, a military protocol was signed between Bangui and Khartoum to create a joint border patrol to monitor the movements of Chadian and Sudanese rebels in the region. The Sudanese component includes former Darfur rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) under the command of Minni Minawi, who joined the government in 2006 (SUNA, September 26; Sudan Tribune, September 27).

The “Triangle of Death”

Between 1850 and 1910 most of what is today the northeastern part of the CAR was largely depopulated by immense slave raids carried out by the Sultans of Dar Kuti, Dar Wadai and Dar Baguirmi.  Though it was no longer called slavery, French colonial forces continued the tradition of forced labor in the 20th century. Birao remains highly isolated from the rest of the CAR (which has less than 500 km of paved roads) and has even been used as a place of internal exile. The town changed hands several times in 2006-2007 in fighting between the rebel Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement (Union of Democratic Forces for Unity – UFDR) and CAR troops backed by French forces stationed in Bangui. After the negotiation of a peace agreement with the UFDR, Birao was occupied by EUFOR Tchad/RCA troops, succeeded by a MINURCAT detachment, which turned the town over to the FACA on November 15.

Birao 2Forces Armées Centrafricaines Soldier in Birao – note row of amulets worn on his lanyard.

Today, nearly three million displaced people live in the triangle formed by the borders of Sudan, Chad and the CAR. Without government control, civilians of the region have suffered widespread abuses at the hands of roving gangs of gunmen with or without political pretensions who replenish their ranks, labor force and harems by abducting children. Development of the CAR’s northeast has been ignored by successive CAR governments, most of which have concerned themselves solely with enriching members of the regime and their tribal supporters. The government has attempted to farm out security by raising and backing local vigilante groups, but even these have posed a threat to local security. An estimated 30,000 refugees from Sudan and the DRC are present in the CAR, many dwelling in the bush far from humanitarian relief.

The collapse of the Chadian insurgency after its Sudanese sponsors negotiated a peace agreement with N’Djamena left a large number of well-armed fighters looking for new bases in the CAR rather than returning to Chad to take advantage of an amnesty. After most of the leaders of the Darfur-based Chadian insurgent groups were expelled by Khartoum to Doha, these groups quickly deteriorated into undisciplined and leaderless gangs. Among those believed to be heading to the CAR are fighters from the Union des Forces de Résistance (UFR) under the command of Adam Yacoub (Sudan Tribune, September 27).

The Lord’s Resistance Army

An ongoing and seemingly irresolvable security threat in the region is posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a decades-old insurgent group that has gradually morphed into a loosely organized terror-spreading group that has no other ideology other than ensuring its continued existence through rape, murder, kidnapping, looting and torture. The Acholi-based LRA has its roots in the 1986 overthrow of Uganda’s Acholi ruler, General Tito Okello, by Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA), but has long ceased any pretense of representing the Acholi community.

Since the failure of the U.S. supported Ugandan military operation “Lightning Thunder” in December 2008 (which split the LRA into a number of different groups rather than eliminate it), the movement has continued its depredations in southwest Sudan, the CAR and the northeastern DRC. In the last two years the LRA has killed over 2,000 people in the CAR’s northeast and abducted thousands more. Though LRA leader Joseph Kony no longer has effective control of his scattered fighters, his divided movement continues to carry out atrocities and abductions under various sub-commanders. Units of the LRA attacked Birao in October, looting shops and abducting women (AFP, November 24).

CAR Defense Minister Jean-François Bozizé, nephew of President François Bozizé, has denounced LRA atrocities in the nation, including “incursions, pillage, massacres, rapes, hostage takings and villages that are systematically burned down,” while insisting that “the LRA is now a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda” (AFP, October 14).

The CAR has also joined in forming a joint military brigade with forces from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Sudan, intended to complete the elimination of the LRA (Daily Monitor [Kampala], October 19). However, with South Sudanese independence looking like the sure result of next month’s independence referendum, Khartoum may choose to continue using the LRA as a regional proxy to threaten the security of those nations choosing to support the separation of South Sudan.

A new U.S. strategy designed to eliminate the threats posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability has four stated objectives:

• Increase protection of civilians.

• Apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his sub-commanders.

• Promote the defection, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the remaining LRA fighters.

• Increase humanitarian access and provide relief to affected communities. [1]


Lying outside of any effective government control, Birao and the rest of the CAR’s northeast region offer insurgent groups, bandits, deserters and renegades an appealing mix of isolation from the CAR state infrastructure and proximity to the borders with Chad and Sudan.

Presidential elections, which have been postponed four times this year, are now set to take place on January 23, 2011, only weeks after neighboring South Sudan’s independence referendum, an event with profound implications for regional security. With the two leading candidates being Bozizé and his ousted predecessor Patassé, there appears to be little chance for substantial change in the CAR. A third possible candidate, former prime minister Martin Ziguele, has been accused by government spokesmen of being a terrorist and the “new de facto president of the CPJP,” though no evidence was produced to support this charge (AFP, September 24).


1.  “Letter from the President on the Strategy to Support the Disarmament of the Lord’s Resistance Army,” November 24, 2010,


This article first appeared in the December 16, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Russian Operations in Tatarstan Eliminate Militant Islamist Cell

Andrew McGregor

December 16, 2010

Russian security forces conducted a special operation in the Tatarstan village of Novoye Almetyevo against a group of three Islamist militants. The gunmen attracted the attention of security forces after firing on a wildlife enforcement officer who thought they were poachers and shooting at the car of a private security firm in the Nurlatsky district (Itar-Tass, November 25).

Tatarstan 1
The security forces arrived in strength, deploying armored vehicles, an Mi-8 helicopter, and 500 members of the FSB (Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti – Federal Security Service) and the Interior Ministry’s OMON (Otryad Militsii Osobogo Naznacheniya  – Special Purpose Police Units) (Islamic News, December 2). The three insurgents were killed after a gunfight lasting two hours.

The militant cell included 26-year-old Almaz Davletshin, described as a “radical cleric” who had previously served four years in prison for the theft of scrap metal, Ruslan Spirodonov, wanted for an unsuccessful November 11 bombing of a police car in Chistopol, and Albert Khusnutdinov. The men were each armed with an assault rifle and a grenade launcher.

A day after the gun-battle, security forces discovered a dugout in the nearby village of Butaikha. The dugout was believed to belong to the three insurgents and contained clothing, a pistol silencer, mobile communications gear, bomb-making equipment and a USB stick which contained bomb-making instructions and “rules of conduct for a young mujahid” (Interfax, November 30).

Tatarstan is a highly industrialized autonomous republic that produces much of Russia’s arms, chemicals and automobiles. Though official Islam in the republic has been known for its opposition to Salafism, the former Mufti of Tatarstan and current leader of the Center for Research on the Koran and the Sunna, Farid-Hazrat Salman, claims that radical Wahhabists have infiltrated the traditionally moderate Spiritual Board of Muslims of Tatarstan (DUM), becoming the dominant trend in that institution with the financial support of Saudi Arabia (Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow], December 6). Nevertheless, current Mufti Gusman Iskhakov (accused by Salman of being a Wahhabist) warned Tatarstan Muslims in the aftermath of the raid not to “succumb to provocations,” warning that “certain political forces in our country do not want our peace and tranquility, and seek all ways to sow discord and confusion among us” (Islamic News, December 2).

Tatarstan 2Founder of Jadidism Ismail Gaspirali

The Tatars of the Volga-Ural region of Russia converted to Islam in the 10th century and today form the largest minority group in Russia. The arrival of radical conservative Salafism in recent years poses a major challenge to Tatar Islam, which is based on both traditional Sufism and the indigenous modernizing trend of Jadidism (a reformist and pan-Turkic attempt to reconcile Eastern Islam with Western thought and science) since the 19th century. Like most parts of Islamic Russia, Tatarstan was significantly secularized during Soviet rule, but is now enjoying an Islamic revival, though this has involved several competing trends. The entry of Salafism to the region in the 1990s has been aided by the relatively poor knowledge of Islamic theology held by many Tatar imams.

A recent conference of Islamic scholars in the Tatarstan capital of Kazan warned that growing extremism in the republic could lead to the development of an “Ingush-Dagestani scenario,” referring to the growth of religiously inspired armed militant groups carrying out attacks in previously stable regions of the Russian Federation.

This article first appeared in the December 16, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Algerian Counter-Terrorism Offensive Hunts AQIM Leadership in the Kabylia Mountains

Andrew McGregor

December 16, 2010

While the Sahel/Sahara Command of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has dominated reports of the movement’s activities over the last year, Algeria’s military continues to combat AQIM’s northern command, based in the largely Berber Kabylia Mountains.

Kabylia 1
A major Algerian military offensive involving some 4,000 to 5,000 troops was launched on December 9 with the participation of Special Forces units and aerial support from helicopter gunships. Operations have focused on the North-Central wilaya-s (provinces) of Tizi Ouzou, Boumerdès and Bouira, mountainous strongholds of the Islamist insurgency since the 1990s. Operations in the latter regions were designed to prevent reinforcements from coming to the relief of the militants in Tizi Ouzou.  The offensive was launched on the basis of information obtained through the interrogation of captured AQIM militants regarding a major meeting of AQIM amirs at Sidi Ali Bounab (70 miles east of Algiers), to be presided over by AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel (a.k.a. Abu Mus’ab Abd al-Wadoud) (El-Khabar [Algiers], December 12; Tout sur l’Algérie [Algiers], December 13).

According to sources in the Algerian security establishment, the meeting was intended to organize a group to be sent south to fend off a planned coup by the Sahel/Sahara command of AQIM designed to depose Droukdel as overall commander and establish an independent emirate in the Sahel/Sahara (El-Khabar, December 12).

Kabylia 2Kabylia

The army jammed mobile telephone networks in the operational region to prevent AQIM cells from communicating or detonating prepared explosives with cell phones. Only days before the offensive, Algerian defense official Abdelmalik Guenaizia asked visiting AFRICOM commander General David Hogg for the latest jamming equipment to prevent remote cell phone detonation of improvised explosive devices (CNN, December 7; Ennahar [Algiers], December 6).

By December 12, as many as 20 AQIM terrorists were reported to have been killed. Algerian authorities have obtained DNA samples from relatives of AQIM commander Abdelmalek Droudkel and Amir Abou Derar in an effort to confirm their deaths in the operation (Tout sur l’Algérie, December 13). The offensive was also reported to have disrupted a major plot to use cell phone-detonated explosives in a bombing campaign in Tizi Ouzou, Boumerdès and Bouira (El-Khabar, December 12). The deaths of Droukdel and Derar remain unconfirmed at the time of publication while a reported 2,000 additional troops were reported to be joining the offensive as some militants remain under siege by Algerian forces (al-Fadjr [Algiers], December 12).

This article first appeared in the December 16, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

AQAP Deputy Leader al-Shihri Urges Soldiers of the House of Sa’ud to Join Jihad

Andrew McGregor

December 2, 2010

A new communiqué from the Saudi Arabian deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shihri (a.k.a. Sa’id Ali Jabir al-Kathim al-Shihri), urges troops in the service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to abandon their “apostate” masters and take up arms in the service of jihad (Global Islamic Media Front, November 18).

Saudi TroopsSaudi Troops on the Yemen Border

Al-Shihri was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in December 2001 and sent to the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in January 2002. He was released in November 2007 and repatriated to Saudi Arabia, where he completed a government-sponsored rehabilitation program. Following his graduation he immediately traveled to Yemen, where he joined AQAP, quickly becoming its deputy leader under Nasir al-Wuhayshi (a.k.a. Abu Basir), who escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006.

The AQAP deputy commander says his advice was prepared in response to inquiries that had reached AQAP from members of the Saudi armed forces. These individuals serving the “al-Sa’ud infidel and apostate government” were unsure of whether they should remain in uniform or join the mujahideen in the “Land of Jihad and Preparation in [the Prophet] Muhammad’s Peninsula,” i.e. Yemen. Al-Shihri cites the works of scholars such as Ibn Hajar and Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah in preparing his response, as well as the works of contemporary Jordanian jihad ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, the former spiritual guide of late al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Besides the apostasy of the Saudi rulers, who have allied themselves with “Jews and Crusaders,” al-Shihri also accuses the regime of promoting “moral corruption, permitting the forbidden intermingling of the two sexes and the spread of nakedness and unveiling, and the corruption of society from drugs, alcohol and other types of clear sins…”

Al-Shihri condemns the treatment of Haylah al-Qusair (a.k.a. Umm Rabbab), a rare female al-Qaeda leader who joined the organization in 2004 after her husband was killed. Since her arrest earlier this year, al-Shihri says the “shaykhs of Satan, the scholars of al-Sa’ud” have “spoiled her reputation, sitting with her, debating with her and pressuring her through her daughter Rabbab, who was shackled in chains.”

Al-Shihri also warns of the regional machinations of the Jews of Israel and the “Magian Rafidites,” a pejorative appellation for Iranian Shiites that implies both paganism and religious deviation: “Understand well that the Muslim nation may soon enter a war, the ferocity of which none but Allah knows.” According to the AQAP leader, the Jews seek to rebuild the Temple of Solomon and establish Greater Israel, but have been foiled by the Salafi-Jihadi movements in Gaza. The “Magian Rafidites” of Iran are set on seizing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina according to al-Shihri, who says “the Jews will launch a war against Iran, but the actual battleground will be al-Sham (i.e. Greater Syria, or the Levant) and the Arabian Peninsula.”

Al-Shihri instructs would-be jihadis in the armed forces to focus their attentions on targets in nearby Israel:

Openly declare your disobedience to the commands of the idolaters [i.e. the royal family] and do not direct your weapons at Muslims who have rebelled against the idolators… Rather, aid them and direct your weapons towards Israel which is only a few kilometers away from you, whose lights can be seen from Haql, an area in the north of the Arabian Peninsula. The pilots among you should seek martyrdom over the skies of Palestine, and those in the navy should point their weapons at the Jews there, earning the honor of martyrdom in the Cause of Allah.

For the soldiers of Saudi Arabia, al-Shihri offers the following advice:

• Form small cells to recruit those in the military and political fields who can aid the cause, especially “those who belong to the Air Force, or are responsible for weapons depots, are officials in the army, Interior Ministry, operations centers or media…”

• Work secretly in creating operational cells to gather intelligence and identify key targets.

• Guards of the government and royal family should emulate the example of Khalid Ahmed Showky al-Islambouli, the Egyptian military officer who played a key role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.

• Employees of the Interior Ministry should gather intelligence from ministry records and pass this along to al-Qaeda.

• Avoid spilling blood unnecessarily, “even if it results in delays in attacking specified targets.”

• Imprisonment should be avoided in favor of martyrdom.

This article first appeared in the December 2, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Yoweri Museveni Accuses International Forces of “Enjoying Themselves in the Ocean” as Ugandan Troops Battle al-Shabaab

Andrew McGregor

December 2, 2010

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni became the first foreign head of state to visit Somalia in over 20 years when he made a three hour visit to Mogadishu on November 28. Though the president’s visit was a carefully concealed secret until his arrival, it served as confirmation of Museveni’s continuing commitment to the political stabilization of Somalia and the elimination of radical Islamist groups such as al-Shabaab and Hizb al-Islam. Ugandan troops form the majority of the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Though many other nations have pledged military support to the mission, only Burundi has actually sent troops to support the Ugandans.

uganda amisomUgandan Patrol in Somalia

After landing, Museveni travelled to the AMISOM Halane base camp and met with AMISOM commanders, including Ugandan force commander Major General Nathan Mugisha, Burundian deputy commander Major General Cyprian Hakiiza, Ugandan contingent commander Colonel Michael Ondonga and AMISOM’s Ugandan chief-of-staff Colonel Innocent Oula (Daily Monitor [Kampala], November 29). The president also met with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) president Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed and the new Prime Minister, Muhammad Abdullahi Muhammad.

With Uganda and Burundi engaged in frontline combat to preserve the imperiled TFG, Museveni was critical to the point of sarcasm in commenting on what he described as a lack of seriousness regarding Somali security issues on the part of the international community, which maintains an expensive deployment of warships off the Somali coast that has had little impact on piracy and virtually no impact on the internal struggle for Somalia:

“We want more troops from Uganda or from anywhere in Africa. Uganda is a country of 33 million people, so we could mobilize three million people. But who will pay for it? International support is not enough. [The international community] don’t take the Somali problem seriously. They are busy enjoying themselves in the ocean, having a nice time in the ocean. Do you know how much money they spend in the ocean? The pirates who go to the ocean to steal from ships come from land. Have you heard that Somalis have become aquatic?”  (Daily Monitor, November 29; New Vision [Kampala], November 29).

AMISOM troops have assumed the burden of defending the TFG from Islamist assaults. A continuing effort to train the TFG’s own military force has been largely unsuccessful with a lack of discipline and resources cited as the main problems. Somali information minister Abdirahman Omar Osman recently admitted that the TFG’s failure to make regular payments to its troops and the appeal of al-Shabaab’s Islamic propaganda have led to defections from TFG forces (Daily Monitor, November 7). The TFG mandate expires in August 2011, leaving an uncertain future for Somalia.

Though the Islamists continue to control most of southern Somalia, Ugandan Colonel Michael Ondoga says progress has been made in recent months in Mogadishu, where AMISOM troops have expanded the area under the control of the TFG to roughly 50% of the city, the largest area secured by the peacekeeping force since its deployment three years ago. The next step is to take Mogadishu’s Bakara Market (currently in the hands of al-Shabaab), but further offensives are hampered by insufficient forces to consolidate and hold positions already taken (New Vision, November 29). The market was the scene of several days of heavy fighting and shelling that coincided with Museveni’s visit (Garowe Online, November 30).

Ugandan diplomats have argued with the UN Security Council (whose chairmanship Uganda will relinquish next month) that an enhanced AMISOM force of 20,000 men would be cheaper and more effective in dealing with piracy than a varied naval presence that lacks a unified leadership (New Vision, November 14). Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has also called for reinforcements and a more aggressive mandate for AMISOM (Garowe Online, November 19). Burundi has just sent an additional battalion to AMISOM, bringing the peacekeeping force up to the original projected strength of 8,000 men for the first time (Daily Monitor, November 26).

Museveni’s visit was not well received by Hizb al-Islam, whose spokesman Shaykh Muhammad Osman Arus claimed AMISOM was committing genocide in Mogadishu: “[Museveni] came here to witness how the Muslim people are being harmed. He must have felt pleased by the atrocities committed.” The shaykh pledged new attacks on AMISOM to demonstrate the Islamists’ displeasure (Africa Review [Nairobi], November 30).

This article first appeared in the December 2, 2010 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor