From Bottom Up
The New York Times
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: December 23, 2006
Residents of Baidoa, the seat of the internationally recognized transitional government, said they saw columns of Ethiopian tanks chugging toward the front lines, . . . Meanwhile, residents in Mogadishu, the battle-scarred traditional capital and the base of Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement, said they saw sailboats packed with foreign mercenaries landing on the city’s beaches.
According to United Nations officials, the transitional government, with the help of thousands of Ethiopian troops, has inflicted heavy losses on the Islamists, who rely on teenage boys to do much of their fighting. On Friday, the fighting was concentrated in towns ringing Baidoa, where witnesses said bodies were piling up in the streets.
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“Tanks? What tanks?” said Zemedkun Tekle, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Information Ministry. . .
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All schools in the Islamist-controlled areas have been closed indefinitely so more young people can be funneled to the front. On Friday, recruitment centers were swarming with teenage boys begging for guns. . .
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. . . While the United Nations and donor countries have struggled to get a new government on its feet, a grass-roots movement of Islamic courts has steadily gained power.
The Islamist movement defeated the last of Mogadishu’s warlords in June and immediately restored a sense of law and order unheard of in the capital for 15 years (!!! NB). . .
. . . American officials have said that if it were not for Ethiopian protection, the transitional government would have fallen months ago.
The fighting began near Baidoa on Wednesday, as European diplomats were meeting with leaders from both sides in an effort to strike a peace deal. The diplomats were initially upbeat. But as the fighting has intensified, the diplomats have become more pessimistic, saying that the rank-and-file Islamists seem bent on war even if their leaders are conciliatory (!!! NB).
In this country teenage boys do the bulk of the fighting, while rank-and-file Islamists push their conciliatory leaders into extremism.
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