The Happy Arab News Service

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Horn of Africa Blows and Blows

The New York Times

Published: December 26, 2006

Islamist forces in Somalia beat a hasty retreat today to their stronghold in Mogadishu, Somalia’s battle-scared capital, crumbling faster than anyone expected after a week of attacks by Ethiopian forces.

. . .

The fast-moving developments seem to confirm what United Nations officials and witnesses in Somalia have been saying since the fighting erupted a week ago: that the young forces of the Islamists, however religiously inspired, were no match for the better trained, better equipped Ethiopian-backed troops who have tanks and fighter jets.

Still, the conflict is hardly over. Thousands of people continue to march in the streets of Mogadishu, rallying behind the Islamists, and analysts are unanimous that an Ethiopian occupation of Mogadishu, a city thick with weapons and xenophobia, could become a bloodbath.


Of course taking over Mogadishu does not mean that the conflict is over. It means that a long and bitter war is laying ahead. Anybody who thought that this conflict would be limited to border skirmishes is up for a big disappointment. If the Islamists prove to be totally uncapable of facing the Ethiopia backed forces of the provisional government in the open field, then they will switch to guerilla tactics.

But unless the provisional government proves itself an able administrator and a provider of a real alternative to the Sharia based order restored by the ICU, their cooperation with the old enemy will win them very few hearts among their people. It's hard to know how the Somalis see the Islamic Courts movement, but collaborating with the Ethiopians is probably the red line for many of them.

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