Somali Jihad Update from AFP: “Somali Islamists seize key port, claim new government defections”
MOGADISHU (AFP) – Islamist courts controlling much of southern Somalia seized a key central port and said at least 100 government troops had defected to their side, in new blows to the weak administration.
Hundreds of fighters loyal to the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) faced no resistance as they swept into the port of Hobyo on machine gun-mounted pick-ups known as “battlewagons” or “technicals,” officials and residents said.
“We have extended our reach to Hobyo,” a senior SICS official said in Mogadishu, from where the Islamists have expanded their territory since taking it from warlords in June after months of fierce fighting.
“We did not capture it, but we reached the people of Hobyo to bring them our message of peace,” the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Accept our message of peace, or we’ll kill you.
“The courts were welcomed by the people of Hobyo. This is a great gift from the mighty Allah, we thank him,” a second senior Islamist official said.
Telephone communication is impossible to Hobyo, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Mogadishu, but residents reached by radio confirmed the Islamists had entered the town after several days of talks with elders.
“The courts are now in control of Hobyo. They arrived this morning after staying overnight in nearby villages,” resident Farah Dullane told AFP. “Their presence is a reality in our town.”
The move north follows the weekend seizure by the Islamists of the port of Haradere, further south, from where bands of pirates had been operating, attacking dozens of ships off the Somali coast in the past year.
Failed states seal their demise when extra-national militias fill the vacuum in providing order and security, as in this case, and with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Lebanese government should take note.
Earlier Wednesday, Islamist officials said around 100 government troops, along with seven battlewagons, crossed into their territory overnight from near the temporary government seat of Baidoa.
“The militiamen communicated with Al-bayan Islamic court in Mogadishu and said they wanted to join our holy effort to bring peace to the Somali people,” said court chairman Mohamed Ali Bilal.
“They are ideologically uncomfortable with the government and also claim to have been mistreated,” he told AFP.
“I pray Allah will give his courage to the remaining soldiers in Baidoa to see the true realities of Somalia, I hope they will all join us,” Bilal said.
As the courts consolidate their power, they have also introduced increasingly strict Sharia law, banning makeshift cinemas and other facilities deemed un-Islamic.