Somali Islamists overrun towns in northward push

2006-06-15
Islamic militias now controlling swathes of southern Somalia pushed north, as their supporters protested against plans to deploy African peacekeepers in the lawless nation and an international forum began talks in New York.
The African Union for its part called for international support for the transitional government, which has been powerless to stop the new round of fighting which has killed more than 360 people in four months.
Areas under the sway of the Joint Islamic Courts militia now include most of the capital, Mogadishu, the town of Jowhar in Middle Shabelle region as well as Gialalassi town and several posts in Hiraan region, all former strongholds of US-backed warlords who were routed on Wednesday.
Islamic commanders said they had seized the towns without much resistance and were targeting Beledweyne, a key access town to Ethiopia, about 300 kilometres (189 miles) north of the capital.
At the same time the Islamic alliance leadership sought the support of influential clan elders for the imposition of Sharia law in areas the Islamists now control and for the expulsion of the warlords from their last strongholds in the country. Muzi.com News 10012162-4 (muzi.com)
Two people were killed in Gialalassi as rival Hawad and Adde subclans, both allied to warlords, wrangled over whether to accommodate fleeing militia before the Islamists arrived, commanders said.
Hundreds of supporters of the Joint Islamic Courts protested in Mogadishu against plans to deploy African peacekeepers to help the government impose its rule on the lawless nation.
They poured scorn on the transitional parliament, which called for the peacekeepers on Wednesday, fearing an attack on Baidoa, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Mogadishu, where it and the government have their temporary seats.
Protestors said the parliament had been manipulated by other countries in the region, namely Somalia's historic foe Ethiopia, which they accused of wanting to occupy their shattered nation.
The Islamist militias have vowed to kill any foreign peacekeepers.
Around 200 people staged a separate demonstration on Thursday in Baidoa, this time in support of the peacekeeping force, to be drawn from a regional bloc that was key to the formation of the transitional government.
Meanwhile Islamic alliance leader Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed met in Jowhar with influential clan elders, who have a powerful role in resolving conflicts.
"Our first priority is to establish an Islamic administration (and) make sure that the towns under our control are safe before spreading our control to other areas," Islamic militia commander Sheikh Hassan Warsame told AFP.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled from power.
Islamic fighters have already set about bolstering security in Jowhar, which they seized from the warlords just days after routing them from Mogadishu, 90 kilometres (55 miles) to the south.
On Thursday security and a semblance of normal life appeared to be returning to the town, after an overnight curfew. As Islamic militia pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns rumbled through the streets, market stalls reopened, and fuel sellers, money changers and other small-time traders were back in business, albeit sluggishly, an AFP correspondent reported.
Rifle-toting Islamic militiamen patrolling the streets were amiable to passers-by and city dwellers.
Rescue workers continued to scour the outskirts of Jowhar in search of more bodies from Wednesday's fighting. Residents and doctors said the death toll had climbed to 12.
Doctors in the main Jowhar hospital said they had run out of basic medical stocks and facilities but the number of injured coming from the outskirts was mounting.
In New York the first meeting of the Somalia Contact Group, gathering representatives of the United States, Norway, Britain, Sweden, Italy, the European Union and Tanzania, took place at the Norwegian UN mission.
The United Nations and African Union also sent observers to the meeting, which was chaired by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer.
The meeting was proposed last Friday by Washington to "promote concerted action and coordination to support the Somalia transitional federal institutions."
But US Ambassador John Bolton cautioned against expecting major decisions from what he described as a mere "exchange of views".
The African Union's Peace and Security Council for its part "appealed to the international community to extend all the necessary assistance" to Somalia's transitional institutions "to enable them to fully assume their responsibilities, with a view to restoring peace, reconciliation and stability in Somalia."
"The Council appealed to all concerned within Somalia to refrain from any action likely to aggravate the situation, to seek the path of dialogue and to extend the necessary cooperation to the transitional federal government," it added.
It called for swift authorisation for the deployment of the regional peacekeeping force to Somalia, which was mooted in January 2005 but has not yet been formed.
Islamic militias now controlling swathes of southern Somalia pushed north, as their supporters protested against plans to deploy African peacekeepers in the lawless nation and an international forum began talks in New York.
The African Union for its part called for international support for the transitional government, which has been powerless to stop the new round of fighting which has killed more than 360 people in four months.
Areas under the sway of the Joint Islamic Courts militia now include most of the capital, Mogadishu, the town of Jowhar in Middle Shabelle region as well as Gialalassi town and several posts in Hiraan region, all former strongholds of US-backed warlords who were routed on Wednesday.
Islamic commanders said they had seized the towns without much resistance and were targeting Beledweyne, a key access town to Ethiopia, about 300 kilometres (189 miles) north of the capital.
At the same time the Islamic alliance leadership sought the support of influential clan elders for the imposition of Sharia law in areas the Islamists now control and for the expulsion of the warlords from their last strongholds in the country.
Two people were killed in Gialalassi as rival Hawad and Adde subclans, both allied to warlords, wrangled over whether to accommodate fleeing militia before the Islamists arrived, commanders said.
Hundreds of supporters of the Joint Islamic Courts protested in Mogadishu against plans to deploy African peacekeepers to help the government impose its rule on the lawless nation.
They poured scorn on the transitional parliament, which called for the peacekeepers on Wednesday, fearing an attack on Baidoa, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Mogadishu, where it and the government have their temporary seats.
Protestors said the parliament had been manipulated by other countries in the region, namely Somalia's historic foe Ethiopia, which they accused of wanting to occupy their shattered nation.
The Islamist militias have vowed to kill any foreign peacekeepers.
Around 200 people staged a separate demonstration on Thursday in Baidoa, this time in support of the peacekeeping force, to be drawn from a regional bloc that was key to the formation of the transitional government.
Meanwhile Islamic alliance leader Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed met in Jowhar with influential clan elders, who have a powerful role in resolving conflicts.
"Our first priority is to establish an Islamic administration (and) make sure that the towns under our control are safe before spreading our control to other areas," Islamic militia commander Sheikh Hassan Warsame told AFP.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled from power.
Islamic fighters have already set about bolstering security in Jowhar, which they seized from the warlords just days after routing them from Mogadishu, 90 kilometres (55 miles) to the south.
On Thursday security and a semblance of normal life appeared to be returning to the town, after an overnight curfew. As Islamic militia pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns rumbled through the streets, market stalls reopened, and fuel sellers, money changers and other small-time traders were back in business, albeit sluggishly, an AFP correspondent reported.
On Thursday security and a semblance of normal life appeared to be returning to the town, after an overnight curfew. As Islamic militia pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns rumbled through the streets, market stalls reopened, and fuel sellers, money changers and other small-time traders were back in business, albeit sluggishly, an AFP correspondent reported.
Rescue workers continued to scour the outskirts of Jowhar in search of more bodies from Wednesday's fighting. Residents and doctors said the death toll had climbed to 12.
Doctors in the main Jowhar hospital said they had run out of basic medical stocks and facilities but the number of injured coming from the outskirts was mounting.
In New York the first meeting of the Somalia Contact Group, gathering representatives of the United States, Norway, Britain, Sweden, Italy, the European Union and Tanzania, took place at the Norwegian UN mission.

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