The New York Times reports that the Islamists have fled from Mogadishu in the face of the transitional government forces backed by the Ethiopian army.
Just hours after the Islamist forces abandoned Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, militias loyal to the transitional government seized the city today in a stunning reversal of fortunes.Curious that Ahmed would surrender the city to avoid a bloodbath when Islamic law requires retaking lands lost to infidels. Bill Roggio also reports on the resignations of key leaders of the Islamic courts. And it was only yesterday that they vowed to fight to the death. Gaius notes that the Times seems disappointed that the Islamists cut and ran.
According to residents, troops from the transitional government, along with Ethiopian soldiers who had been backing them up, poured into the capital from the outskirts of the city while militiamen within Mogadishu occupied key positions, like the port, airport and dilapidated presidential palace.
“The government has taken over Mogadishu,” a transitional government leader, Jama Fuuruh, told Reuters by telephone from Mogadishu’s port.
“ We are now in charge."
Mogadishu’s new powers immediately had to deal with a rising level of chaos, as armed bandits swept the city and fragmented clan militia began to battle each other for the spoils of war. Witnesses said an intense gun battle raged around a former Islamist ammunition dump and that clan warlords had instantly reverted back to setting up roadside checkpoints and shaking down motorists for money. Many terrified residents stayed in their homes behind bolted doors and the few that ventured into the streets carried guns.
“No one is really in command,” said one adviser to Western diplomats who has close contacts with both the Islamists and the transitional government. “Chaos is in command.”
People inside Mogadishu and out are stunned. The Islamist forces, just a few weeks ago the most powerful force in the country and considered a regional menace, had disintegrated after just four days of counter-attacks by the Ethiopian-led troops. There were reports that the Islamist leaders had gone underground, fleeing deep into the Somali bush. There were also worries that they had simply changed tactics and could be planning to employ guerilla warfare and terrorist attacks, as they had threatened to do. Today, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed , a top Islamist leader, said his forces had surrendered the city to avoid a bloodbath.
The larger problem is that Mogadishu has descended into chaos once again and it is up to the transitional government and Ethiopian army to try and regain control over the battered city. Bryan at Hot Air notes that Ethiopia correctly determined the threat posed by the Islamic courts and took decisive action to eliminate the threat.
The swift fall of the Islamists from power in Mogadishu should be correctly seen as a big victory against the Islamists and the jihadis. The problem will be the follow up as the Islamists simply melted into the background where they can still cause trouble - watch for an insurgency operation to unfold in coming weeks as the Islamists are not going to give up the grip that easily. They saw their forces destroyed when engaging in combat operations with the Ethiopian army, but know that if they follow the Iraqi model, they could be successful at creating a perception of stalemate that favors them.
While we're at it, there is absolutely no way anyone should accept a ceasefire before the Islamists surrender unconditionally or are crushed. The UN should not stick its nose into this matter to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Others taking note of the routed Islamists from Mogadishu: JammieWearingFool, Euphoric Reality, and the fine folks at memeorandum.
Yemeni forces attacked four Somali ships carrying more than 500 refugees and one capsized. Seventeen people drowned and more than 100 are missing.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Here's a US State Department document from 1973 noting the Somali threat against Ethiopia and a recommendation to assist the Ethiopians. It isn't too difficult to see the parallels to the current situation. Simply switch Soviet with Islamist.
Here's still more on the US view of Ethiopia and the Somali threat from 1973.
Technorati: somalia, ethiopia, eritrea, african union, council of islamic courts, genocide, crimes against humanity, jihad, failure, and united nations
Labels: Africa, African Union, Ethiopia, jihad, Somalia, terrorism, US Air Force