Islamist collapse in Mogadishu
Just hours after the Islamist forces abandoned Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, militias loyal to the transitional government seized the city today in a stunning reversal of fortunes.The BBC reports that the surviving Islamist have fled to the port city of Kismayo 300 miles to the south. In retrospect the Islamist were fragile bullies who folded when faced with serious opposition. Hopefully, this will be a serious blow for jihadism. It also has to be blow for the fickle tribal leaders who had swung to their cause and are now swinging back to the transitional government which is the strongest position it has been in ever. Now that they have caught the wheel they have been chasing, it will be interesting to see if they can do anything better with it than the Islamist. Whoever controls Somalia, still has no prize of great value.
According to residents, troops from the transitional government, along with Ethiopian soldiers who had been backing them up, poured into the capital from the outskirts of the city while militiamen within Mogadishu occupied key positions, like the port, airport and dilapidated presidential palace.
“The government has taken over Mogadishu,” a transitional government leader, Jama Fuuruh, told Reuters by telephone from Mogadishu’s port.
“ We are now in charge."
Mogadishu’s new powers immediately had to deal with a rising level of chaos, as armed bandits swept the city and fragmented clan militia began to battle each other for the spoils of war. Witnesses said an intense gun battle raged around a former Islamist ammunition dump and that clan warlords had instantly reverted back to setting up roadside checkpoints and shaking down motorists for money. Many terrified residents stayed in their homes behind bolted doors and the few that ventured into the streets carried guns.
“No one is really in command,” said one adviser to Western diplomats who has close contacts with both the Islamists and the transitional government. “Chaos is in command.”
The Islamist forces hastily collapsed on Wednesday afternoon when clan elders pulled their troops and firepower out of the movement after a string of back-to-back military losses in which more than 1,000 Islamist fighters, most of them adolescent boys, were killed by Ethiopian-backed forces.
“Our children were getting annihilated,” said Abdi Hulow, an elder with the powerful Hawiye clan. “We couldn’t sustain it.”
As the transitional government’s troops marched into the city, political negotiations began. Mr. Hulow and other clan elders said they wanted to negotiate with the transitional government to get good positions for fellow clan members in exchange for support. Today, Ali Mohammed Gedi, the prime minister of the transitional government, was meeting with elders from Mogadishu’s power clans on the outskirts of the city.
Bill Roggio has a good round up on the Islamist retreatthat includes this:
...A small island would be a poor choice for a retreat since it would make escape even more difficult. Roggio also discusses reports that the Ethiopians are not taking any foreign prisoners. There will be no Gitmo for these jihadis. His report is well worth reading in full.
Despite the abandonment of Mogadishu, the Islamic Courts has yet to fully surrender to the TFG. "Unconfirmed reports say that the ICU hardliners and its fighters have gone to Ras-kamboni, a small island in southern Somalia, the Islamist’s former base," notes SomaliNet.
Fighting is still ongoing in parts of the Lower Shabelle region of southern Somali. Garowe reports the ICU is still battling the TFG and Ethiopians outside of the town of Lego, where the Islamic Courts retreated, and "many deaths" have been reported. "One Islamist fighter named Abdi Ali told Garowe Online that Ethiopian troops launched an attack on Lego but met heavy resistance from the Islamists," notes Garowe. Lego was the scene of Ethiopian air strikes just days ago.