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Somali rebels are now controlling some 30 percent of Somalia

Turkish Weekly

By Abdel Qadir Mohammad, IOL Correspondent

The Islamic Courts fighters have grown more powerful in recent months, regaining control of at least one-third of Somalia thanks to sophisticated attacks and unified ranks in the face of a weak government, Somali experts said on Monday, December 3.

“The Islamic Courts fighters are controlling some 30 percent of Somalia” Mohammad Al-Amin Al-Sheikh, a Somali expert in strategic affairs, told Monday, December 3.

“They have now tightened their grip on the southern provinces,” he added, referring to the strategic provinces of Shabele Dhexe, Juba Dhexe, Juba Hoose, Hiraan and Galguduud.

Al-Sheikh said anti-government tribal groups are virtually controlling 40 percent of the Horn of Africa country, while 25 percent enjoy de facto independence like Somaliland.

“This leaves the government in control of a meager 5 percent of Somalia, chiefly the main cities,” he noted.

Backed by the United States, the Ethiopian Woyanne army intervened in December of last year in the Somali conflict to help the weak interim government oust the Islamic Courts, which managed to briefly restore unprecedented order and stability on most of the Somali territories after more than 15 years of unrest.

The Courts ruled for six months after routing an alliance of warlords, who were also supported by Washington.

Since their ouster, the Ethiopian Woyanne and government forces have been coming under almost daily resistance attacks.

Why Powerful?

The Islamist fighters are more sophisticated and unified than the weak government troops, according to experts.

“The Islamist fighters outnumber the government troops, which are less experienced,” said Abu Bakr Al-Badri, a Somali journalist and political analyst.

There are some 6,400 Islamic Courts fighters including 4,000 in the capital Mogadishu, 1,500 in the south and 900 in the two provinces of Hiraan and Galguduud, according to Al-Sheikh.

“The government has 4,000 soldiers, but they are unable to match the powerful Islamic Courts because they lack a clear fighting strategy and many of them believe it is haram (unlawful in Islam) to take up arms against fighters resisting the Ethiopian occupation,” said Al-Sheikh.

After ousting the Islamic Courts, Ethiopia deployed some 40,000 troops in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Beledweyne.

The Islamist strength also lies in their flexibility and decentralization, and despite their different ideologies, they act in unison when necessary.

“They have proved pragmatic when they joined forces with nationalists and (liberal) intellectuals, forming the ‘Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia,’ in September under Sharif Sheikh Ahmed,” the former head of the Executive Council of the Islamic Courts, said Al-Sheikh.

The impressive performance of this alliance has made it a party to be reckoned with, encouraging regional and European heavyweights like Egypt and Italy to invite its leaders for talks, according to the Somali expert.

Realizing its growing influence, newly-appointed Somali Prime Minister Nour Hassan Hussein invited Sunday, December 2, Islamist opposition leaders for a dialogue to put an end to a deadly cycle of violence that has been raging since January claiming the lives of up to 6,000 people and pushing tens of thousands into a panicky flight.

“We are ready to speak with the Asmara group as long as they are ready to discuss with us. We are not naming anyone from the opposition leaders but we are ready for a positive advice and criticism,” Hussein told a Kenyan TV station, referring to the Eritrea-based Islamist-led opposition alliance.

Somali President Abdullah Yousef Ahmed had admitted that the Islamists were the de facto rulers of Somalia.

“Who is running trade, education, communication and health in Somalia?” Yousef asked in recent statements cited by local media and the Voice of America.

“It is the Al-Islah group (Muslim Brotherhood), Islamic Union Group (Salafists) and other (Islamist) groups”, he answered.

This is a great news. The defeat of the fascist Woyanne forces in Somalia is a victory for the brave people of Somalia, and a source of hope and inspiration to the repressed people of Ethiopia.

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