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Showing posts from September 23, 2013

Heavy gunfire heard in Nairobi shopping mall

Major assault launched to free hostages held by al-Shabab fighters in mall where at least 68 people have been killed. Heavy gunfire has been heard coming from inside Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall as security forces launch an assault against al-Shabab fighters holding hostages inside.
Kenyan security forces claimed on Sunday to have rescued most of the hostages, but an unknown number remain trapped inside.
Armed men belonging to the Somali group had stormed the Westgate shopping centre on Sunday using grenades and assault rifles. The attack left at least 68 people dead and more than 150 wounded, according to the Red Cross.
Col. Cyrus Oguna, a military spokesman, told Al Jazeera that most of the hostages had been released, though he did not provide an exact number. "Most of them were dehydrated and suffering from shock," Oguna said, adding that four Kenyan soldiers were injured in the rescue operation.
Al-Shabab spokesman Abu Omar talks to Al Jazeera about the siege Keny…

In Zapad Exercises, Russia Flexes its Military Strength

Summary


The upcoming joint military drills between Russia and Belarus will be Moscow's latest demonstration to its periphery and to the West that it remains a viable power in the region. The two countries will conduct their Zapad exercises from Sept. 20-26, the first time since such drills have been held since 2009. These exercises are significant from both a military and political perspective, and are occurring at a time when tensions are rising between Russia and Belarus on one side and Poland and the Baltic states on the other. The Zapad drills, combined with NATO's Steadfast Jazz drills to be held in the Baltic states in November, highlight the security and military pressures in the region, which have steadily grown in recent years.

Analysis


The last Zapad exercises were held in September 2009 and involved a total of 15,000 Russian soldiers and navy servicemen, as well as 6,500 Belarusian troops. The equipment deployed included tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and artiller…

Zimbabwe's Diamond Industry

The European Union announced Sept. 17 that sanctions against the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp., whose diamonds have long buoyed President Robert Mugabe's regime, will be lifted. The decision to lift the sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. was driven by several countries in pursuit of various national interests. Belgium, for example, has been the EU member most ardently in favor of removing the restrictions, likely because it has long been a global center for the diamond cutting and polishing trade. The country may be hoping to gain an upper hand in the market for Zimbabwean diamonds, the trade of which, despite the sanctions, has continued heavily in several global cutting centers, from Europe to India to Israel.

The push to ease sanctions was also in line with the broader goal in the West, including the United States and the United Kingdom, of engaging the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front in a more productive manner. The European Union likely reco…

Somalia: Tactical Shifts Mark an Internal Struggle for al Shabaab

Analysis


Editor's Note: In light of the recent attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi by militants with alleged links to al Shabaab, Stratfor is republishing an Aug. 27 analysis on the tactical shifts taking place within the group as its leadership struggles to manage limited resources. Look for further situational reports and analysis on the ongoing developments in Nairobi.

As Somali security forces continue expanding their reach, al Shabaab has remained a capable force that controls limited territory and conducts operations in areas of southern Somalia. Though the militant group continues its insurgency against government forces and African Union peacekeepers, it has changed the way it conducts attacks. These changes emerged after the so-called "Godane coup" in June, when al Shabaab supreme leader Abu Zubayr, also known as Ahmad Abdi Godane, removed dissident leaders in order to tighten his control of the group. Tactical shifts could signal a change in the management of …