[QODLink]
Africa
Islamic Courts flees Kismayu
Advancing Ethiopian troops force fighters of the Union of Islamic Courts out of Kismayu.
Last Modified: 01 Jan 2007 07:56 GMT

With the help of Ethiopian forces, the Somali interim government has control of Mogadishu [AFP]

Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) fighters have fled from their final stronghold around the southern Somali port town of Kismayu in the face of an advancing force of Ethiopian and interim government soldiers.

A Kismayu resident said: "The Islamic courts left Kismayu last night. They left [their front line at] Jilib as well.

 

"Nobody knows where they went. There's a lot of confusion."

Ali Mohamed Gedi, the Somali prime minister, confirmed that the last stronghold of Islamic Courts’ fighters was now under government control.

 

The besieged Islamic Courts had rallied several thousand fighters at Jilib, just north of Kismayu on the shores of the Indian Ocean, after a retreat south 300km from the capital, Mogadishu.

 

Ethiopian troops fighting to support the interim government had rained down mortars and rockets on the Islamic Courts men dug in near Kismayu on Sunday to start a battle against them.

 

Fearing a blood bath, residents ran for their lives, carrying blankets, food and water on their heads.

 

Jilib lies about 45km north of Kismayu, where Islamic Courts leaders Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed are based.

 

Reversed roles

 

The intervention of Ethiopia has reversed the fortunes of the provisional government and the UIC, which just two weeks ago controlled the capital and appeared on the verge of routing a weak interim government stranded in a provincial town.

 

Now the interim government has control of Mogadishu and the Islamic Courts - without tanks or planes - are fighting with their backs to the sea and Somalia's southern border with Kenya.

 

Ethiopia has at least
4,000 troops in Somalia [AP]
Osman Mohamed, an aid worker, said: "Two-thirds of the population in Jilib have fled the town ... nearly 4,700 have fled."

 

The Islamic Courts have built trenches with bulldozers and have more than 60 "technicals" - pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons - supporting about 3,000 fighters, witnesses say.

 

Kenya has reinforced its northern border and US forces are also said to be in the region, including the sea, to prevent foreign fighters aligned with the Islamic Courts from escaping.

 

Ethiopia says it has 4,000 troops in Somalia, though many believe that number could be far higher.

 

Somalia's interim government has not given troop numbers, but is thought by experts to have several thousand.
Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
join our mailing list