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Meanwhile, In Somalia…. December 31, 2006

Posted by Dan in Main, Middle East, Must Read, News, Politics, Religion, Snipets, War.

Somali Islamist forces have backed into their last stronghold, the port of Kismayo. The largely supported Ethiopian invasion is an effort to expel the standing Islamic government of Somalia. The outbreak of fighting, however, seemed largely unprovoked. The Ethiopian government is accusing Somali Islamists of “harboring terrorists,” and used this as justification for war. It seems as if the United States has set a bad example and legitimized unilateral invasions, provided they fly the flag of anti-terrorism. The consequences of the failed occupation of Iraq have bled outside of the Middle East to start another war in Africa. This one, largely uncovered by the media, may be far more brutal than Iraq. You can rest assured that no one will be asking about the captives taken in this conflict. Mass-media blinders have largely seen to that. The UN estimates that 30,000 people have already been displaced during the fighting, and that casualties have been high. The war officially began when Somali Islamic forces were forced from the capital of Mogadishu three days ago, on Thursday.

From the BBC:

Somali Islamist militiamen are fighting Ethiopian and Somali government troops advancing towards their last major stronghold in the port of Kismayo.

Artillery fire has been reported near the town of Jilib, close to Kismayo.

Ethiopian fighter jets have also been flying low over Kismayo, reports say. Residents have been fleeing the area.

The Islamist militia has vowed to resist the Ethiopian and Somali government troops who forced them out of the capital on Thursday.

Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has said his forces are “ready to fight the enemy of Allah” and had only left the capital, Mogadishu “to prevent bloodshed”.

Some 3,000 Islamist fighters are believed to be in Kismayo, some 300 km (185 miles) south-east of Mogadishu, towards the Kenyan border.

Ethiopian artillery and troops officially entered Somalia, joining fighters loyal to Somalia’s interim government, to repel an Islamist assault on the government stronghold of Baidoa.

Border reinforced

Clashes are being reported in several towns near Jilib.

“Fighting has started,” a resident of the town of Bulobaley told Reuters news agency. “Several mortars and rockets have hit the town.”

“Most of the mortars and rockets that have hit the town have fallen on deserted houses. I don’t know if there are any wounded,” the resident, who did not wish to be named, said.

Thousands of civilians in the area around Jilib have been fleeing their homes in anticipation of heavy fighting.

The BBC’s Peter Biles says Jilib is a gateway to the south of the country and the Islamist militia are likely to use the town to block any further advance.

He says the Islamists could find themselves trapped between Kismayo and the Kenyan border.

Kenya has re-enforced security along its border in an effort to prevent Islamist militiamen from crossing over.

Food shortages

Somalia’s interim government has called for talks with the Islamists.

However, the Islamists say they will not enter any dialogue unless Ethiopian forces vacate the country.

Ethiopia accuses the Islamist militia of harbouring terrorists.

The militia has its origins in a Union of Islamic Courts, known as the UIC, that was established to restore order in Mogadishu.

The UIC assumed control of the capital in June, driving warlords out and rapidly extending its influence to much of southern Somalia.

Some analysts say the UIC’s popularity stemmed from its ability to transcend the clan enmities that have bedevilled Somalia since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Almost all Somalis are Muslim, and after years of lawlessness many were happy to have some kind of law and order under the UIC.

Much of Somalia faces food shortages because of recent heavy floods.

The UN estimates that about 30,000 people have been displaced during the fighting, and casualties have been high.

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