Somali masses at demonstration against foreign intervention. The United States is encouraging Ethiopian occupation of Somalia in order to advance American interest in the Horn of Africa.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
Rapidly expanding Somali Islamist fighters are advancing towards a town near the border with Ethiopia, aiming to cut off the government base in Baidoa, officials of Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) said on Tuesday.
Officials of SCIC, which controls much of central and southern Somalia, said they would try to seal the 1,600-kilometer border to keep out any advancing Ethiopian troops and corner those already in Somalia.
"We will go to all towns on the border between Somalia and Ethiopia to prevent them (Ethiopians) from getting supplies," said Mohamed Ibrahim Bilaal, an Islamist official for Bay and Bakol regions on Tuesday.
"Our fighters, with large number of battle wagons, are now advancing on Tiyeglow. We will go to all border towns in our country to deprive our enemy (Ethiopia) of a route to enter into our country," Bilaal added.
But the United Nations-backed transitional government, which is supported by neighboring Ethiopia against the growing threat posed by the Islamic movement, said it has sent about 700 troops to defend the town of Tiyeglow.
"We have dispatched up to 700 government troops to Tiyeglow to prevent an Islamist takeover," said Mohamed Ali Gaboobe, a government militia commander.
Tiyeglow is about 150 kilometers northeast of Baidoa, the only town the government controls, on the main road to Baidoa from Ethiopia.
The new development has raised the possibility of another front line opening between the rivals amid fears of a regional conflict breaking out in the Horn of Africa nation.
The Islamists accuse Ethiopia of fighting with the forces of the government in Baidoa, charges denied by Ethiopia. The military build-up in the town of Tiyeglow follows fierce fighting on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, a senior SCIC official called on all Somalis to join their fight against Ethiopia. Addis Ababa denies taking part in fighting but admits to having hundreds of military trainers in Baidoa.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country has made preparations in case of an Islamist attack.
Analysts say the clashes and artillery exchanges that took place southwest of Baidoa on Friday and Saturday could be the opening shots of the long-anticipated war for control of Somalia.
Uganda, which is expected to send peacekeepers in the Horn of Africa nation, has decided to delay the vanguard mission until the security situation improves.
"We have decided that at this particular time, we should not go to Somalia," Ugandan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Oryem Okello reportedly said.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.
A transitional government was formed two years, but it has been unable to assert its authority over the country.
Somalia govt forces surrounded
12/12/2006 - 18:30:29
Thousands of Islamic militants today surrounded the only town Somalia’s government controls, the prime minister said.
It came as a top Islamic official promised to attack within a week unless troops from neighbouring Ethiopia leave the country.
The surrounded town of Baidoa was today teeming with soldiers patrolling the city and manning checkpoints.
Ethiopian troops are believed to be based around Baidoa.
“I believe that war is inevitable because elements within the so-called Islamic Courts are against peace and stability in the country,” Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said in his office in Baidoa.
Ethiopia acknowledges sending military advisers to help Gedi’s internationally-recognised government but denies sending a fighting force.
A confidential UN report obtained by the Associated Press in October said up to 8,000 Ethiopian troops were in Somalia or along the border backing the government.
“If the Ethiopians don’t withdraw from Somalia within seven days, we will launch a major attack,” Sheik Yusuf Indahaadde, national security chairman for the Islamic group, said in the capital, Mogadishu.
Somalia warns of regional war
MOGADISHU--Somalia's government on Monday said its stand-off with the country's powerful Islamist movement posed a "grave danger" to the region and urged the world to step in and avert a looming all-out conflict.
As Islamist and government forces faced off in southern Somalia after two days of deadly clashes that claimed dozens of lives, the government said a full-scale war in the lawless country would spill across borders.
The government "draws the attention of the international community to the grave danger that the current situation poses to peace and stability in Somalia and the region and would like the issue addressed urgently," the information ministry said in a statement.
It claimed foreign fighters, notably from Eritrea, were streaming into the country to support the Islamists, who control swathes of south and central Somalia.
"Thousands of Eritreans and other foreigners, who are answering Islamic Courts Union's call for 'jihad', are pouring into ICU-held regions," it added.
"Our intelligence sources also indicate increased flow of arms shipments from Eritrea and abroad," the statement said.
Last week, Islamist fighters and government troops, backed by Ethiopian forces, exchanged artillery fire for two days south of Baidoa, the seat of government in a deadly escalation of the fighting.
Islamist militiamen were advancing to a border town that is believed to be on a supply route for Ethiopian troops in Somalia, an Islamist courts official said on Monday, adding they intended to block all of the Ethiopians' entry and exit routes.
The transitional government has sent hundreds of its troops to defend the town, Tiyeglow, from the advancing Islamist militiamen, said Mohammed Ali Gaboobe, a government militia commander, raising the possibility of another front line between the rivals being opened.
Tiyeglow is about 270 kilometres northwest of Baidoa, which is the government base, and is on the pothole-ridden main road between the border and Baidoa. It is believed that Tiyeglow is one of the towns through which Ethiopian troops have entered Somalia and may be on their supply route.
Both the transitional government and Ethiopia have consistently denied there are Ethiopian troops in Somalia, with Ethiopia saying it only has a few hundred military advisers helping the transitional government form a national army.