Conflicting reports of the situation in Mogadishu. “Premier claims Somali ‘victory’,” from the BBC:
Ali Mohamed Ghedi said the worst of the fighting against Islamists and clan gunmen was now over.
Columns of tanks were deployed and reinforcements sent to Mogadishu from other parts of Somalia.
Earlier, a BBC correspondent in the city said the battles were the heaviest in recent days, spreading to new areas.
United Nations humanitarian relief co-ordinator John Holmes has described the situation in Somalia as critical.
He said up to 400,000 people had fled Mogadishu but aid was reaching just 60,000. A doctor who runs one of Mogadishu’s hospitals estimates that two-thirds of the city’s one million residents had left.
Some 300 people have been killed in the recent clashes, after 1,000 deaths last month, local human rights group say.
Mogadishu residents say government forces have taken control of some northern suburbs from the insurgents.
“We hope to completely conclude the war tomorrow, and government forces will secure the capital,” Mr Ghedi said.
But some correspondents in Mogadishu have questioned Mr Ghedi’s assessment – they say there are still reports of heavy fighting, and artillery and machine-gun fire can be heard across the city.
Somali Education Minister Ismail Mohamoud Hurre said the deaths and violence were a price worth paying to return normality to the country, which has not had a functioning national government for 16 years.
“The Ethiopian forces are doing very well, stopping the Jihadist elements from causing instability,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
“We have to bite the bullet.”
But a UK think-tank has strongly criticised last December’s operation to oust an Islamist group which had taken control of Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia.
“Genuine multilateral concern to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia has been hijacked by unilateral actions of other international actors – especially Ethiopia and the United States – following their own foreign policy agendas,” said the Chatham House report.
In an exceptional display of bias, the Chatham House report gets the last word in the article, without an opposing point of view. From the Ethiopian standpoint, for example, self-preservation is certainly a worthy “foreign policy agenda.”
“Whatever the short-term future holds, the complex social forces behind the rise of the Islamic Courts will not go away,” the authors said.
They’re right about that much, though they clearly don’t understand the war in Somalia as a facet of the global jihad, or how deeply rooted the Islamic Courts’ policies were in Islamic teaching and texts. Simply put, the “complex social forces” are more complex than they appear to grasp.