Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Things fall apart in Somalia

Tuesday's retreat from Mogadishu by Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's weak transitional government likely means another success for Islamist radicals fighting to control parts of Africa and Asia. Cheering Somalis filled the streets to watch the troops leave, according to the New York Times. Ethiopia, which had kept forces in Somalia since 2006, said it was withdrawing from the country entirely. The withdrawal probably means the collapse of the transitional government and the advance of fighters from Islamist factions that control most of the country. There still are 3,000 African Union troops in Mogadishu from the 2006 intervention that, instead of enhancing stability, helped incite a guerrilla war that killed thousands of civilians and drove more than 1 million from the capital, the Times said. Territory controlled by the government has been reduced to a few blocks of Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa, where Parliament meets. Analysts warn that the Islamist factions will begin fighting each other when Ethiopian troops leave, putting residents of Mogadishu at increased risk. Fighting may have already begun, the Times said. One Islamist leader, Sheik Yusuf Mohammed Siyad, took credit for the Ethiopian pullout. “We drove the Ethiopians out by means of muscle and bullet,” he said, according to the Times. “Today, we got the victory we were expecting. We are ready to unite with our brothers now, since the enemy is leaving.” U.S. officials had been pressing the United Nations to replace the African Union troops with a better-armed peacekeeping force, but other UN members have been reluctant to get involved, the Times said.

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