SOMALI COURTS SEIZE MORE TOWNS

Islamic Courts fighters have seized control of two key towns in south-central Somalia, forcing Ethiopian troops to withdraw from the region, witnesses said on December 29. “Ethiopian troops left their only camp near the Baladweyn city (the capital of Hiiran region) before dawn,”

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Islamic Courts fighters have seized control of two key towns in south-central Somalia, forcing Ethiopian troops to withdraw from the region, witnesses said on December 29. “Ethiopian troops left their only camp near the Baladweyn city (the capital of Hiiran region) before dawn,” Magan Ahmed, a businessman in the Hiran region, was reported as saying. “I think they went to the direction of the border between Somalia and Ethiopia.”
Islamic Courts fighters also took over Guriel town, some 300 kilometres (188 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu. “The Ethiopian forces withdrew from the town overnight and now I can see the former Islamic courts fighters,” said Mohamed Haji Elmi, a tribal leader.
Backed by the United States, the Ethiopian army invaded Somalia last year to topple the Islamic Courts at the request of the weak interim government. The Islamic Courts, which ruled Somalia for six months after routing a Washington-backed alliance of warlords, managed to briefly restore unprecedented order and stability on most of the Somali territories after more than 15 years of unrest. But since their ouster, Somalia has descended into chaos with almost daily attacks against Ethiopian troops and government forces.
Ahmed, the businessman, said the growing influence of the Islamic Courts in the central areas has forced the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops. “Now there is no Ethiopian soldiers in the central regions of Somalia,” he said.
Somali experts have told IOL that the Islamic Courts fighters have grown more powerful in recent months, regaining control of at least one-third of Somalia thanks to sophisticated attacks and unified ranks in the face of the weak government.
European diplomatic sources also told IOL that several Arab heavyweights have changed hearts after an initial support for Ethiopian presence in Somalia and are diplomatically and financially supporting the Somali resistance.
On December 28, hundreds of Somalis took to the streets of the Finnish capital Helsinki, accusing Ethiopian troops of committing genocide in Somalia and demanding the Ethiopian withdrawal from the Horn of Africa country. The protestors marched to the US embassy, demanding Washington to stop support to the Ethiopian practices in Somalia.

Human Rights Watch accused the Ethiopian troops in a recent report of systematically bombarding heavily populated areas in Mogadishu in violation of international humanitarian law.