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Somalia Overview

Somalia, mired in an ongoing civil war, has felt the tensions of conflict and war since its birth as a sovereign nation in 1960.  In just one generation, a democratically elected government was felled by a coup d'état. The rule of Said Barre  was characterized by mismanagement and repression at home as well as endlessly shifting Cold War loyalties abroad. The Barre regime was overthrown in1991, having lost the aid of its Cold War patrons. Since 1991 there has been no official government ruling over Somalia. From 1992-1995, the United Nations deployed a peacekeeping force numbering more than 20,000 soldiers. In 2004 a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed, with the goal of restoring numerous national institutions, but was unable to enter the country for several years. In 2006 the TFG, bolstered by support from the United States and the Ethiopian militaries, challenged the rule of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that had controlled parts of the South. The military offensive fractured the ICU, leading to the formation of smaller insurgency groups, including al-Shaab, who are still fighting against the TFG.

Somalis continue to experiance threats, bombings, outbreaks of fighting, and failed peace agreements as the TFG and various insurgency groups present in Somalia: al-Shabaab, Hizbul Islam, and even al-Qaeda fight to control of the country. Foreign intervention by the Ethiopian military, as well as missile attacks and air strikes by the United States are reported.  By May of 2007, the exodus of civilians fleeing the fighting in the capital city of Mogadishu caused the UN's emergency humanitarian coordinator, John Holmes, to proclaim, "In terms of the numbers of people displaced, and our access to them, Somalia is a worse crisis than Darfur or Chad or anywhere else this year."  

On Feburary 7, 2009 the newly elected president of the TFG, Sheik Sharif Ahmed, arrived in the capital of Mogadishu. In retaliation, Somalia's two largest insurgency groups, al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam officially declared war on the TFG and African Union peacekeepers that had been deployed to the country. Insurgent groups conducted military offensives on towns and cities including Mogadishu.  In one particular suicide bombing in Beledweyne, a city just north of Mogadishu, killed Somalia's Security Minister, Omar Hashi Aden (35 people altogether were killed).

Without a functioning central government, insurgency has continued to expand, Western powers fear Al Qaeda’s ability to expand under a failed state as well as the growing problem of piracy off the Horn of Africa. As of the summer 2010 al-Shabaab are said to have control over southern and central Somalia and also a large portion of the capital, Mogadishu.