Ethiopia clearly stands to lose a great deal if what’s left of the UN-backed Somali government in Baidoa should fall. With the exception of Kenya to the south, the loss of the Baidoa government would leave it largely surrounded by hostile Islamic governments (including Sudan and breakaway nation Eritrea) and popular elements keen on strangling the country and obliterating its non-Islamic and pre-Islamic heritage.
Somali Jihad Update from AP: “Ethiopia prepared to invade Somalia”
NAIROBI, Kenya – Ethiopia is prepared to invade neighboring Somalia to defend its U.N.-backed government against what appeared to be an imminent attack by Islamic militiamen, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
The militiamen, who hold most of southern Somalia, deployed hundreds of fighters outside the town where the largely powerless government is based and said they planned to seize it.
“We have the responsibility to defend the border and the Somali government.We will crush them,” Ethiopia’s Minister of Information, Berhan Hailu, told The Associated Press.
Seizing the town of Baidoa would give the Islamic militia — which the United States has linked to al-Qaida — the uncontested authority over most of Somalia.
Somali transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is allied with Ethiopia, and has asked for its support. Ethiopia has intervened militarily in Somalia in the past, and hundreds of Ethiopian troops have been spotted along the countries’ border in
The Somali Islamist militants are allied with Muslim separatists in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.
Updates from AP in the past few hours report that the Supreme Islamic Courts Council militia has decided to pull back from Baidoa for the moment:
Senior officials of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council have decided to withdraw, a day after their deputy defense chief said they planned to take the only town held by Somalia’s internationally recognized interim government.
Officials of the Islamic group had given conflicting accounts of their intentions after seizing the town of Bur Haqaba Wednesday and moving toward Baidoa, 40 miles away. Janaqaw said Thursday the forces would return to Bur Haqaba.
They may be offering the Baidoa government one last chance to surrender, or perhaps elements in the SICC may be pondering ways to extort money or other incentives. At any rate, “War is deception,” according to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and neither Ethiopia nor Baidoa know what lies ahead for them at this point.
“Nothing will stop us from going into Baidoa,” Sheik Muqtar Robow, deputy defense chief for the Islamic group, said Wednesday. He gave no timetable for an attack. He said more than 130 fighters who were loyal to President Abdullahi Yusuf had defected to the Islamic group’s side.
But the head of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council’s executive body, Sheik Shariff Sheik Ahmed, told local radio stations: “Our intention was not to attack Baidoa.”
He said that the forces had only wanted to capture a nearby village because it was the home village of one of their officials.
Another Islamic official, Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal, who heads the local militia that seized control of Bur Haqaba, had said their only aim was to persuade people to implement Islamic law in the region.
That’s all? Gee, what a relief.