Somalia: Ethiopia grooming Puntland to fight Islamists?

The US and Ethiopia appear to be grooming the northern autonomous regions of Somalia—Puntland and Somaliland—as proxies to fight the Islamic Courts Union that controls the traditional capital, Mogadishu. So: should we be supporting this as a defense of freedom against Islamist totalitarianism, or opposing it as destructive imperialist meddling? Sound off, readers. From the independent Shabelle Media Network, Mogadishu, Dec. 7, via AllAfrica:

Somalia: Islamist Fighters And Ethiopian Backed Militias Clash in Bandiradley
Fighting between the Islamic Courts fighters in Bandiradley and Abdi Qeybdid’s militias backed by Ethiopian and the autonomous regional government of Puntland troops has occurred in Sadeh Higle, a settlement that lies between Bandiradley and Galkayo where both troops exchanged motor shells and small fire.

Shabcan Abdi Anshur, an Islamist officer in the area, has told Shabelle Radio by telephone that heavy weapons were used in the skirmishes that lasted hours. He claimed they killed number of Qeybdid’s militias.

Casualties of both sides cannot be verified.

Islamist fighters and Ethiopian backed militias loyal to warlord Abdi Qeybdid, who was evicted from the capital on July 11 after deadly battles in which more than hundred fifty people, most of them civilian population, died, are facing off near Bandiradley, about 60 km away from Galkayo which is under the administration of Puntland.

The news comes as Islamic Courts fighters in Hiran province, central Somalia were put on a high alert after they felt an Ethiopian military movement along the border with Ethiopia. Islamic Courts in the region have opened an office that would register young people who voluntarily want to take part in a Jihad or holy war against foreign troops in the country.

Around 100 young people were registered as UN Security council resolution that alleviated the arms embargo on Somalia allows regional peacekeeping forces to be deployed in the country.

Islamic Courts vehemently rebuffed foreign troop’s deployment in Somalia, vowing they will fight and defeat the African peacekeeping forces, known as IGASOM that would enter Somalia to train and protect the fragile transitional government based in Baidoa.

The UN Security Council voted earlier this week to approve creation of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Somalia (IGASOM), and also to lift the arms embargo on Somalia—a move clearly aimed at backing up the “official” transition government in Baidoa. Officially, countries that border Somalia will be barred from sending troops under IGASOM. (IRIN, Dec. 7)

See our last post on the Horn of Africa.

  1. Somalia
    Somalia is free and it will always be. For Ethiopia i say we have defeated you more then 10 times.Maybe you don’t write it in your history but you know for a Ethiopia if you listening this is not good for you becouse the people that used to to fight us. For what ever reason are not going to be there to help you this time around Rusia is starving to death. What I’m saying is this time we will finish you once and for all Addis ababa here we come. For Meles Zenawi we will bring you to justice for all your crime’s againest humanity and fot those who help you kill so many innocent Oromos and Somalis they too will be brought to justice.

  2. Fighting Inside Somalia

    December 10, 2006: Ethiopian trainers and combat troops are helping the militias in Puntland and Somaliland (two independent parts of northern Somalia) to resist takeover attempts by Islamic militants.

    December 9, 2006: Ethiopian troops continue to battle Islamic Courts gunmen 80 kilometers southwest of Baidoa in Somalia.

    December 8, 2006: A number of firefights were reported inside Somalia between the Islamic Courts militia and units loyal to Somalia’s Transitional Government. The Islamic Courts claimed that their fighters also engaged an Ethiopian military force of 1800 troops near the town of Dinsoor. The Islamic Courts claimed that its fighters defeated the Ethiopian force. The claim of victory was disputed by a Transitional Government. However, there was no dispute that a serious fight took place a Dinsoor. Dinsoor is approximately 100 kilometers from Baidoa, the Transitional Government’s capital.

    The Islamic Courts also accused Ethiopian troops of shelling an Islamist militia position near Bandiradley in Somalia’s central area. The Islamic Courts claimed the artillery attack took place on December 6. Bandiradley is about 600 kilometers north of Mogadishu.

    The Ethiopian government denied the reports that it had troops fighting inside Somalia, calling them “rumors.” Ethiopia has said that it has military trainers in Somalia, which are providing training support to the Transitional Government.

    December 6, 2006: Eritrea claimed that eight Ethiopian soldiers crossed the Ethiopia. Eritrea border and defected to Eritrea. The Eritreans said that the Ethiopian soldiers were “protesting” the Ethiopian “invasion” of Somalia. At least five of the soldiers were allegedly Oromos (Moslems from eastern Ethiopia). The soldiers may well have defected (ethnic Oromo defections have happened before) but the claim that the defectors were “protesting” Ethiopia’s action in Somalia sounds just a little too politically convenient.

    The UN called for an “African protection and training mission” to deploy inside Somalia. The troops and personnel would be supplied by the African Union (AU) and from the East African cooperation group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The UN-AU-IGAD group would be named IGASOM (the SOM indicating Somalia). The force will be authorized to use force. The peacekeepers are intended to help Somalia’s Transitional Government. IGASOM will have up to 8000 troops and its initial mandate will run six months. The UN resolution does not permit peacekeeping troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, or Djibouti (Somalia’s immediate neighbors. That noted, this UN position is very much in line with Ethiopia’s call for an African peacekeeping force in Somalia. Ethiopia is aligned with Somalia’s Transitional Government. A Ugandan government spokesman said that Uganda would probably contribute a battalion to the force. The question is, who in Africa, outside of Uganda, will be able to send troops? The winding down of the UN mission in Burundi has freed up some potential troops from South Africa, but those may be committed to an enhanced AU force in Sudan’s Darfur. South Africa also has on-going commitments in the Congo.

    The UN and Eritrea confirmed an earlier report from last month that two UN contractors were injured when the vehicle they were traveling in detonated a landmine inside the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). The incident took place on November 8. The vehicle hit the mine on a road that had been cleared of landmines. Who did it? No one knows. Eritrea has been actively harassing UN observers in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border area.

    December 5, 2006: The Ethiopian government claimed that two members of the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) surrendered. The claim was disputed by an ONLF spokesman. The ONLF is an ethnic Somali rebel group.

  3. Ethiopian interverntion in Somalia
    Hi dear editor,
    The conflict in the horn of Africa is trumped up by Meles Zenawi and his associates from the West. The Islamic court was not a prominent figure in the Somali politics but it was made to be. If at all it was a genuine assertion, both US and Meles could dismantle it at its inception. They waited untill it became gigantic force and Zenawis’ security were busy fueling the christian and Moslem conflict by being the main actors in massacring christians in Ethiopia. Eventhough we don’t understand the western interest behind this, Zenawis’ agenda is clear- securing funds for his offensive against innocent subjects in Ethiopia; he needs funds to sustain his concentration camps, ammunition to kill and torture his dissents-terrorize the public at large.
    We don’t think Meles can mislead the west into believing that the Islamic court is a threat to their interest; they know better than him and whatever happens in that region they are to blame. The cold war is over and they don’t have to ally with criminal gangsters to secure whatever interest they have; though this war is totally a mismatch to their interest.