Ethiopian and Somali government forces approach Kismayo after taking over Jilib.
Mohamoud Hurreh, Somalia’s foreign minister, told Al Jazeera on Monday that he expected the government to complete its victory over the Islamic courts.
He also offered an amnesty to Islamic courts fighters who surrendered their weapons
|Ethiopia has about 4,000 troops in Somalia
assisting transitional government forces [AP]
“Nobody knows where they went. There’s a lot of confusion.”
The besieged Islamic courts had rallied several thousand fighters at Jilib, just north of Kismayo 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 fired mortars and rockets at the UIC fighters dug in near Kismayo on Sunday to start a battle against them.
Fearing a bloodbath, residents ran for their lives, carrying blankets, food and water on their heads.
The Somali government said that despite its military successes it recognised that a political settlement was still vital in order to head off the possibility of an Islamist anti-government campaign.
The interior minister, Hussein Mohamed Farah Aideed, said: “If we do not reconcile with them, then they will start an insurgency like in Iraq.”
The intervention of Ethiopia has reversed the fortunes of the provisional government and the Islamic courts, which two weeks ago controlled the capital and appeared on the verge of routing a weak interim government stranded in the provincial town of Baidoa.
Ethiopia says it has 4,000 troops in Somalia, though many believe that number could be far higher.