The coming battle in Kismayo

Washington Post:

Somali government troops heavily backed by Ethiopian tanks and soldiers pushed Saturday toward Somalia's port city of Kismaayo, the last stronghold of the Islamic Courts movement swept from power in recent days.

A major battle between the two sides seemed imminent, as Ethiopian jets blew over towns near Kismaayo, and leaders of the Islamic movement rallied fighters who had retreated to the area in the face of Ethiopia's vastly superior military force.

The Islamic Courts movement is "ready to fight against the enemy of Allah," Sharif Ahmed, a leader of the group, told residents of Kismaayo, according to the Associated Press.

Somalis are growing impatient with the presence of thousands of Ethiopian troops in their country, but Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has backed the interim Somali government now in power, has said his military will not pull out until it has captured the most "extremist" leaders and "international jihadists" within the Courts movement.

Meles has accused those leaders of supporting ethnic Somali separatist groups in Ethiopia, and both the United States and Ethiopia have accused the Islamic Courts fighters of sheltering terrorists, an allegation the movement has called propaganda.


The U.S. government, which has a substantial military presence up the coast in Djibouti, has said that four suspects in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania could be among the 2,000 or so fighters who retreated in recent days to the Kismaayo area, which includes a vast forest ideal for hiding in and staging a guerrilla war.


Bill Roggio puts the size of the Ethiopian force haded to Kismayo at about 500 vehicles plus 200 tanks. The Islamist usually fight with pickup trucks with machine guns mounted in the bed called technicals. Estimates of the remaining Islamist range from 2000 to 3000 fighters.


American intelligence and military sources inform us the Islamic Courts, al-Qaeda and foreign fighters are also massing at Ras Kamboni [Kaambooni on the map, also see satellite image]. Ras Kamboni sits on the Indian ocean, and is less than two miles from the Kenyan border. This can pose a problem for Ethiopian forces moving into the area, as it will require extra care to ensure the fighting doesn't spill over to the Kenyan side of the border.

Ras Kamboni has a history of Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya [the predicessor to the Islamic Courts] and al-Qaeda activity. "In May 1999, al-Sharq al-Awsat said al Qaeda was setting up a camp near the coastal town of Ras Kamboni and was installing sophisticated communications there," wrote Michael Scheuer in Through Our Enemies' Eyes.

"The terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the suicide bomb attacks of Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Mombassa and the failed attempt to bring down an Israeli passenger jet with two surface-to-air missiles in 2002 were widely believed to have been orchestrated from Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia," reported the Ethiopian News Agency in July of 2006.


Roggio says the Ras Kamboni facility is active and is one of the 17 terrorist camps in Somalia. Denying the enemy these sanctuaries is very important work. I would not be surprised if Kenya was not also aiding this war against the Islamist. It is certainly in their interest.

This AP report says that the Prime Minister of Somalia has agreed to turn over to the US three of the embassy bombers if they are captured in Kismayo.


The three men — Comorian Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Taha al-Sudani, a Sudanese — are al-Qaida suspects and are under U.S. indictment for the 1998 bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed hundreds of people.

"We know they are in Kismayo," Gedi said. "We would like to capture or kill these guys at any cost. They are the root of the problem."

Gedi said he had spoken Sunday to the U.S. ambassador in Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, about ensuring the Kenyan border with Somalia is sealed to prevent the three escaping. "We will get them," he said.

This is all the more reason to support this operation. I am sure we can find room for them in Gitmo.


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