Thursday, July 20, 2006

Somali Islamists vow holy war on Ethiopian troops

Somalia's Islamists threatened on Thursday to wage holy war on Ethiopian troops they said had crossed into the Horn of Africa nation, Reuters reported July 20, 2006:
"God willing, we will remove the Ethiopians in our country and wage a jihadi war against them," Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a senior Islamist in charge of defence, told reporters.

Robow said around 20 Ethiopian military vehicles had crossed into Somalia at Dollow on Wednesday, adding to previous Islamist accusations that its giant neighbour was sending in soldiers.

Independent analysts believe Addis Ababa has sent several thousand troops into Somalia, and is massing many more on the border, as a deterrent to any more advances by the Islamists, who took Mogadishu from U.S.-backed warlords last month.

Ethiopia backs the interim Somali government of President Abdullahi Yusuf, based in the provincial town of Baidoa.

Ethiopia, which is the main power in the Horn of Africa region, earlier said it would "crush" any move by the Islamists to take Baidoa.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Terrorist suspects running Somali capital - Ethiopia PM

AP report via ST July 4, 2006:

Members of a group listed by the U.S. as a terrorist band are now running the capital of neighboring Somalia, days after Islamic fighters wrested control of the city from warlords, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Tuesday.

"The renowned extremist and terrorist organization, al-Ittihad, is at the helm of the current leadership in Mogadishu," Meles told lawmakers during a review of the situation in Ethiopia relations with neighboring countries. "We do not believe that all the forces that have taken control of Mogadishu and its surroundings are extremists."

Al-Ittihad is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida. Washington has accused the group of harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for deadly 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

U.N. officials say Al-Ittihad operates openly as a religious organization and is a powerful economic force in southern Somalia, where it captured key towns from warlords in June.

U.N. experts monitoring an arms embargo on lawless Somalia described Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys - heads of the powerful consultative council of the group that controls Mogadishu - as the al-Ittihad leader responsible for overseeing military training.

The military trainers for what constitutes "Al-Ittihad’s de facto army" reportedly include several Afghans and Yemenis, the U.N. experts said in a report released early last year.

Aweys, however, has denied being al-Ittihad’s leader and said the group has disbanded.

Despite the dramatic rise to power of the extremists, most residents and members of the group running Mogadishu are only interested in ending 15 years of anarchy and restoring peace and stability in the country, Meles said.

Still, Ethiopia is closely watching developments in Somalia and has deployed troops and military hardware on the border separating the two countries.

Ethiopian officials have previously accused al-Ittihad combatants of training, arming and helping Ethiopia’s ethnic Somali and Oromo separatist fighter.