The front line in Mogadishu is about 8 kilometres long. Starting from the former Jalle Siyad Military Academy located in the Industrial Road in the north of Mogadishu, it goes south through the former Military Hospital where it turns to the east through Hodan district snaking its way almost in a straight line all the way to Bondhere in “North Mogadishu”( which in reality is East, geographically speaking). From Bondhere the front line takes a sharp turn south and goes all the way to the Old Parliament, where again it turns east all the way to the Jubba Junction. At Jubba, the front line again turns south and ends at the shore of the Indian Ocean.
To survive the constant bombardment of the front lines by AMISOM and the TFG, the Shabab have built bunkers and trenches that go for 200 metres in some areas. They also come in handy when crossing roads and alleyways that have snipers. I wonder why they didn’t think of that in Sarajevo. Oh, well.
In a typical day, the Shabab wake up at 5.30 a.m for Fajr prayers and don’t go back to sleep. On the other side of the front lines, the Government soldiers are all dozing except for one sentry per squad at the most. Shabab don’t attack in the morning in Mogadishu but they do so in other cities(Shabab rely on speed and stealth for attacks, something that is impossible in the morning due to 12 hours of Daylight ahead of them), therefore the Shabab will wait for the other side to act. They normally get info from their agents and/or Loyalists in the government about any planned assault days or even weeks ahead.
If the government forces do attack, they announce their intent to attack with almost an hour of shelling, giving the Shabab enough time to dig in and wait for the infantry. Once the Infantry do arrive, the Shabab shoot one bullet per man per minute at the most, while the government soldiers shoot truckloads of bullets, withdraw and claim to have used up more ammunition than they really did. They sell their stolen ammunition to dealers, giving them very high discount( all kinds of ammunition get very cheap during days of battle). The dealers then carry the ammunition in cargo trucks to sell to the Shabab(not all people who sell their bullets support the Shabab. Some just want the money).
By noon time the battle is over. Government soldiers take their Khat rest. They leave one sentry to shoot at the Shabab every 3 minutes. Such shooting is referred to as the I-Am-Here-Don’t-You-Forget-That shooting. The Shabab normally have orders not to reply to such shooting and only shoot when they suspect the enemy is advancing.
By Five O’ Clock, the Shabab may assemble for a counter-attack. The government soldiers are tired from the morning’s assault, Shabab commanders love to attack them at such a time, especially because Government troops are given extra Khat during battle days. Some of the Government soldiers also use Sleeping Pills, drink home-made Beer (known as “Calaq” in Somali), and even smoke Hashish, which is readily available all over the Government area and sold in the black market in the Shabab areas.
From 5 p.m to 6 p.m the Shabab carry out their attack, making sure that there is fighting all over the Frontline so as not to alert the Government and their agents as to where the real target is. Mogadishu being a large Urban area, they set goals to capture one building at a time, and use most shelling and the best trained troops supported by Foreign fighters to take the day’s objective. More often than not, they do succeed in pushing back the drug-induced government soldiers and are only stopped when they reach the heavily fortified AMISOM positions. With time, all the front lines in Mogadishu will be filled with AMISOM troops on the Government side. Every building and road occupied by the Government soldiers is at risk and will eventually be taken by Shabab.
There is no fighting during most nights, but the Shabab do carry out night raids using the night as cover. Their raids at night are mostly hit and run but sometimes they do occupy buildings that are abandoned by Government soldiers that are high on drugs and can not concentrate on the fighting.
When it is time to sleep, about 20% of the Shabab on the front lines are awake at every given time. The rest sleep in the bunkers, wearing their full uniforms and using their guns as pillows. They all remove the bullets from their guns and put their guns on safety. On the other side of the front lines, only about 10% of the Government troops are awake and keeping sentry beyond 2 a.m. They all have loaded guns, and it is common for them to “accidentally” shoot one another, sleeping or not.
The Government forces are so undisciplined that the former warlords’ militias would win prizes for good conduct compared to them. No wonder the Emiratis have cut off support for them and are now supporting a Private Security company to fight the pirates instead of the government.
The problems with the Government forces can be fixed but there is no political will. In the next blog we will look at the Internal conflict within the Government that is helping the Insurgency. Please follow this blog for an inside look into the Insurgency.
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