Somali Islamists claim capture of govt outpost

AFP
Somali Islamists claimed to have captured a frontline position from Ethiopian-backed government forces on Saturday while the embattled Somali prime minister warned that foreign "terrorists" had joined the ranks of the Islamic forces.
As fighting raged between the country's rival powers for a fourth straight day, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said that 4 000 "foreign fighters" had taken advantage of the conflict to infiltrate the lawless country.
"This shows how terrorists are gaining ground in Somalia, so we are calling on the international community to be aware of [what is happening in] Somalia," he added.
Islamists, meanwhile, renewed calls for Muslims around the world to offer support for the "holy war", and claimed to have captured a key frontline position at Idale, about 60km south of the government headquarters in Baidoa.
"Our Islamic fighters have taken control of Idale and are heading to other parts where Tigray [Ethiopian] invaders are now based," Islamic movement information chief Abdurahim Ali Muddey said.
Information Minister Ali Jama did not confirm the seizure, but said "fighting is raging in Idale". Witnesses said the rivals were bombarding each other with mortars, rockets and machine-gun fire, causing heavy casualties.
With no sign of a let-up in the fighting, the Islamist leadership called on Muslims around the world to join in the clashes that threaten to engulf the entire Horn of Africa region.
"Grave results will be witnessed if the international community maintains ignoring the deteriorating situation in Somalia," added Islamist security chief Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad Indo'adhe, who made the appeal to Muslims.
Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki, who has been accused of helping the Islamists, denied sending troops to Somalia.
Issaias said: "Eritrea has no reason to send troops to Somalia and that the Somalis do not need Eritrean troops to defend their country," the information ministry said in a statement.
The president said "the main cause of the prevailing problem in Somalia is the interference of external forces, especially the aggression of the Ethiopian regime".
"If the Somali issue is at all to be resolved genuinely the Somali people should be given the chance to resolve their problems themselves," Issaias added.
The fresh violence drew calls for restraint from the international community, with the United Nations and African Union regional grouping urging an immediate end to the fighting in the country, which has been effectively lawless since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Egypt and the Arab League echoed those appeals in Cairo on Saturday.
Addis Ababa, which accuses the Islamists of links with extremists, said it was determined to see the Somalia crisis resolved peacefully.
Ethiopia is supporting Somalia's weakened government against the Islamist forces, which control Mogadishu and much of the rest of the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation.
Fighting erupted early on Wednesday, hours after the expiry of an Islamist-imposed ultimatum for Ethiopia to withdraw the thousands of troops the Islamists say Addis Ababa has deployed in the country.
The fighting on twin fronts has forced thousands of residents to flee.
Witnesses said Ethiopian tanks faced off with Islamic fighters in Daynunay, a flashpoint garrison town about 30km to the east of Baidoa, but there was no direct confrontation.
The fighting and war of words appear to undermine a statement by European Commissioner Louis Michel on Wednesday that he had secured the commitment of both sides to observe a truce and resume peace talks.
Arab League-mediated talks in Khartoum collapsed in November when Islamists refused to negotiate until Ethiopia withdrew its troops. The new clashes have ruined hopes of a possible resumption of talks.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at12:15 AM

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