Somalia: Ethiopian troop build-up as jihad deadline expires

New Ethiopian troops movements are reported in Somalia, as a deadline set by the Islamic Courts Union for a Somali jihad against Ethiopia expired Dec. 19. Witnesses and local officials said a new detachment of Ethiopian troops in a column of armored vehicles has occupied Ballanballe in Galgaudu province, in central Somalia. Reports indicated the troops have established checkpoints on the central road through the region, and are stopping all vehicles. The development came a day after a local “Islamic Court” was set up in the Galgadud provincial district of Abudwaq. Abdirisak Mohammed Warsme Fiqi, leader of Islamic Court in Abudwaq, called on the people to prepare for a jihad against Ethiopian occupation troops.

Last week Islamic Courts leaders in the Somali capital Mogadishu gave Ethiopian troops seven days to withdraw from Somalia or face a declaration of jihad. The ultimatum expired Dec. 19.

New Ethiopian troops were also reported in Hiran province, where they were said to be backing militias loyal to the warlords Mohammed Dhaere and [Yusuf?] Dabageed. (SomaliNet, Dec. 19)

Sudan and Yemen are said to be cooperating in a behind-the-scenes diplomatic effort to convince the Ethiopian government to withdraw its troops from Somalia. Sources said the two governments are appealing for Arab League mediation in the crisis. Abdurahman Mohammed Hussein, the Sudanese defense minister, apparently met this week with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa, where he raised the Islamist ultimatum. Meanwhile, an Islamic Courts delegation led by Sheik Sharif met with Yemeni president Ali Abdalla Salah in Sana, Yemen’s capital. (Shabelle Media Network, Dec. 18)

See our last posts on Ethiopia, Yemen and the proxy war in Somalia.