Ethiopia pushes deeper into Somalia

Ethiopian jets bomb Mogadishu airport and capture a Somali town.

    The Islamic courts say they have killed
    hundreds of Ethiopian fighters [Reuters]

    "We call on the international community to act soon about this violation"

    Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal,

    Islamic courts commander

    "We have killed more than 60 Islamists, wounded others and captured some as prisoners of war."
     
    Baladweyne is 100km north of Baidoa, seat of the transitional government.
     
    The offensive came after thousands of Ethiopian soldiers prevented the Islamist Courts Union from surrounding  and capturing Baidoa, the only major city under government control.
     
    Following their defeat in Baladweyne, leaders of the Islamic courts called on the Ethiopian troops to withdraw.
     
    Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal, a senior Islamic commander, said: "We call on the international community to act soon about this violation."
     
    Both sides have reported killing hundreds of their opponents in the recent fighting, but the claims could not be independently confirmed.
     
    Ethiopia bombs airports
    Baidoa is the only major town controlled by Somlia's interim government
     
    Also on Monday, Ethiopian fighter jets bombed the airports of Mogadishu, the Islamist-held capital, and Baledogle, Somalia's largest military airfield 100km to the west.
     
    Ibrahim Hassan Adow, the foreign secretary of the Islamic Courts Union, told Al Jazeera that the bombing of Mogadishu by Ethiopian MiG aircraft injured two people, one of whom was a cleaner.
     
    "Ethiopian attacks against Somalia have no limits. It seems the entire world is silent about it."
     
    Ethiopia said it bombed the airport in order to halt the supply of arms to the courts.
     
    Solomon Abede, the Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman, said: "It was attacked because illegal flights were attempting to land there.
     
    "It was also reported that some of the extremists were waiting for an airlift out of Mogadishu."
     
    In November, a UN arms-monitoring group reported that flights originating in Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Djibouti and Syria landed in Mogadishu and Baledogle.
     
    The UN and the Somali government said that many of the flights carried arms and military supplies for the Islamic Courts. The US has also been accused of funding and arming those fighting for the government.
     
    Border closed

    The Islamic courts guard Mogadishu's
    airport after the air raid [Reuters]

     
    The Somali government said that it was closing the country's borders.
     
    This is little more than a symbolic measures as the government controls little more than the town of Baidoa while the country's long borders are largely unmarked.
     
    However, aid agencies said they feared that the measure would hamper their attempts to send food and medical supplies into the poverty-stricken country.
     
    The UN World Food Programme airlifted more than 14 tons of food into Somalia on Monday, but had not yet been notified of any border closures, Peter Smerdon, an agency spokesman, said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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