Battles continue in Somalia

NY Times:

Any hope of a quick peace in Somalia vanished in a burst of artillery shells on Friday, as fighting between rival forces raged for a third straight day.

Residents of Baidoa, the seat of the internationally recognized transitional government, said they saw columns of Ethiopian tanks chugging toward the front lines, heightening worries that Somalia’s internal problems could soon become regional ones. Meanwhile, residents in Mogadishu, the battle-scarred traditional capital and the base of Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement, said they saw sailboats packed with foreign mercenaries landing on the city’s beaches.

According to United Nations officials, the transitional government, with the help of thousands of Ethiopian troops, has inflicted heavy losses on the Islamists, who rely on teenage boys to do much of their fighting. On Friday, the fighting was concentrated in towns ringing Baidoa, where witnesses said bodies were piling up in the streets.

As the two sides continued to blast each other with machine guns and artillery, an exodus began, with thousands of residents from the battle zone squeezing into aged trucks with pots, pans and sacks of clothes and fleeing to safer areas.

Ethiopia has acknowledged that it has dispatched several hundred military advisers to help the transitional government repel the Islamists. But on Friday, Ethiopian officials continued to deny that their troops were engaged in combat.

“Tanks? What tanks?” said Zemedkun Tekle, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Information Ministry. “We have not sent any heavy arms into Somalia. Such talk is just propaganda to stir up the people.”


Islamist leaders have tried to frame the escalating conflict as a nationalist struggle, one aimed at evicting Ethiopian troops, whom they call infidel invaders. While Somalia is almost purely Muslim, neighboring Ethiopia has a strong Christian identity, even though it is actually about half Muslim. The two countries are longtime rivals and have fought over contested border areas before.

All schools in the Islamist-controlled areas have been closed indefinitely so more young people can be funneled to the front. On Friday, recruitment centers were swarming with teenage boys begging for guns. In Mogadishu, mosques blared out a call for retired soldiers to lend their expertise to the new jihad.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement late on Friday warning the Islamists to end their “hostile anti-Ethiopian activities.”

The Islamist religious bigots seem to be pretty desperate in this report. An army that depends on untrained kids is rarely successful. If Ethiopia does get involved a big way, it has superior resources including attack helicopters and armor. Those sailing to join the battle could be jihadis who might otherwise have gone to Iraq, so the fighting in Somalia may become a distraction for al Qaeda and its allies. The desperate use of untrained fighters reminds me a little of how the Taliban attempted to fight the US unsuccessfully.

This could be a remarkable turn around for the Islamist, in the downward direction. After consolidating their victory in Mogadishu their attack on the Transitional government city looked like a forgone victory.


  1. Education, accountability, fair trade, the rule of law...what is it that the west doesn't like about these things in Somalia? As a non-muslim Somali, I can honestly say that the UIC were the best thing to happen to my country in the past 20 years.
    Now The US is desperate to hand power back to the warlords and other groups who will pass their oil laws.
    The US is fighting the War of Terror, using proxies to do the dirty work, much the same as The Ciold War, without doing any research - the only thing that me and my fellow Somalis hate more than the US is Ethiopia.

    Mustafa Yuusuf.

  2. The Islamist think education is memorizing text from the seventh century. They harbored the embassy bomber terrorist and threatened their neighbors in Ethiopia. Their association with al Qaeda is clearly enough to make them an enemy as well as anyone who supports them.

  3. And herein lies the problem - western news propaganda leading you to have fixed views on what is going on in specific places without knowing any of the facts.
    As I said earlier, I'm non-muslim Somali, as are most of my family, and would deeply oppose any kind of Madrassa education being given to my niece and nephews (as would their parents).
    As for Al Qaeda assosciation, why not bomb Pakistan if Al Qaeda are the ones you are after? That's where the majority of Al Queda ops come from, that's where the funding comes from (including the funding for the 9/11 attacks).
    As for threats to Ethiopia, you must be joking. Learn your history before spouting nonsense.
    With comments like the above, it is easy to see why governments feel free to act in any manner that they choose, without consequence. They know that there will be no accountability demanded for their actions, as the masses swallow any line that they are told.


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