June 26, 2011

Reading #Conflict in the Urban Terrain of Kismayo, #Somalia


Recent reports from Somalia have described a helicopter attack on al-Shabaab fighters near Kismayo.  Originally reporting the death of two fighters, it now appears that 15 died in the missile attack.  Kismayo is an al-Shabaab stronghold where a great deal of fighting has taken place. 

A quick look at the city on Google Images reveals a large section of the city blackened by explosions and fires.  The pattern of scorched buildings is consistent with the major transportation corridors highlighted in red. As the conflict in Somalia is highly mobile and fast moving, gains are established by taking hold of the roadways, thereby assuming control of the neighborhoods pinned between roads.

If one isolates the individual locations of attack, a subtle collection of patterns emerge.  The largest areas of combat often take place at transportation intersections.  This provides  the largest variety of logistical and operational  input/outputs, such as improved range of vision and horizontal expansion of battle space.

Yet further analysis also reveals two primary bands of conflict.  Both bands are curvilenear, suggesting 2-3 primary points of entry for troops.  The band on the left, situated on city limits, shows on large point of conflict followed by a series of smaller points.  Either the conflict began at a fever pitch and tapered off, or it built to a climax in the first band.

As the conflict continued and forces swept into the city, the second band emerged. They traveled most likely from the lower corridor which contains clear horizontal roadways and is less entangled in the labyrinth of smaller, internal side-streets.  Al Shabaab would have likely traveled northward, continuing to take advantage of major transportation arteries and as the land came under their control, the intensity of conflict would subside.