Jarail, 31 Dec. (AKI) – Several hundred Islamist militants belonging to the al-Qaeda linked ‘Young Mujahadeen’ group have gathered at a disused miliatary base 40 kilometres from the southern city of Baidoa, where Somalia’s transitional government is based, pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat reports, quoting unnamed government sources.
The ‘Young Mujahadeen’ are being led by the Islamic Courts movement’s former miltary commander, Mukhtar Rabow, whose battlename is Abu Mansur.
The group’s objective is to launch intermittent attacks against Baidoa. To fend off such attacks, the Somali authorities have deployed an ‘extraordinary defence plan’ for the city, al-Sharq al-Awsat said.
Islamist militants in recent days have taken the village of Jarail, in the central part of the country, and over the weekend waged fierce firefights with Ethiopian troops in the capital, Mogadishu.
The militants are reported to have launched rocket attacks against government offices and the stadium in Mogadishu, which has become the Ethiopian troops’ base.
Ethiopian troops came to the rescue of the embattled Somali government a year ago and swiftly ousted the Islamic Courts, which had briefly controlled large areas of south and central Somalia.
Remnants of the fundamentalist movement have since reverted to guerrilla tactics, waging a deadly insurgency, mainly on the streets of Mogadishu.
Hundreds of people, mainly civilians, have died in clashes between Ethiopian-backed government forces and insurgents over the past six months. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have been forced to flee Mogadishu, sparking what the United Nations has described as Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis.