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Reese Schonfeld

Reese Schonfeld

Posted January 27, 2009 | 12:02 PM (EST)

Somalia Update III: "Scoop" Revisted


When the McLaughlin Group made their predictions about Obama's first crisis yesterday, nobody mentioned Somalia. I guess they hadn't noticed that on Saturday a suicide car bomber had killed at least seventeen people in an attack on African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu. Most of those killed were passengers on a nearby bus. After the blast, African Union forces and Islamic insurgents continued to exchange machine gun and artillery fire.

Today, the Islamists seized control of Baidoa, Somalia, the country's most important sea port, the seat of its Parliament and the de-facto headquarters of the country's governing body. Meanwhile, for safety's sake, most members of Parliament were meeting outside the country in Djibouti, with various clans contending for the Presidency, which may no longer exist; and Parliamentarians debated the number of members to be selected for a new Parliament, which will probably never be seated.

In Baidoa today, Al-Shabab, an Islamic extremist group, reported to be an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, seized control of both the Parliament building and the Presidential palace. Parliament was ransacked and looted, and at least five members surrendered to the insurgents. Meanwhile, members of Somali warring clans continued to battle each other while Al-Shabab and other hard-line Islamists refused to participate in peace talks.

In fact, "Somalia" has already ceased to exist as a functioning country, but, according to CNN, controls only the Presidential palace in Mogadishu and a road to the capital city. President George W. Bush has left Somalia in the hands of Al-Qaeda and the pirates. President Obama has inherited it, and in the midst of everything else, it is both a distraction and a crisis. If it weren't so serious, even if it is, I recommend that readers turn to "Scoop", Evenlyn Waugh, 1938.