Thursday, December 28, 2006


The speed of the government's advance has surprised observers. thiopian and Somali government forces have reached the outskirts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after Islamist forces abandoned the city.
Eyewitnesses say Somali troops were cheered by crowds, but some residents condemned the Ethiopian presence.
Ethiopia's prime minister said his men were consulting Somali officials and Mogadishu elders about what do to next.
In recent days Ethiopian troops have helped the interim government capture ground previously held by Islamists.
"People are cheering as they wave flowers to the troops," resident Abdikadar Abdulle told Reuters news agency, adding that military vehicles had passed the Somalia National University.
However another resident told the BBC: "The entire people of Somalia are ready and working against the Ethiopian armed forces... As Muslims, God willing we will defeat the enemies of Islam and their lackeys."

Conflict in pictures
Violence alarms press
US keeps a close watch

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan, in the city, says clan militiamen seized key buildings - like the airport and old presidential palace - as soon as Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) withdrew its fighters early on Thursday.
Residents in the north of the city have reported cars and mobile phones being stolen. Rising insecurity has forced most businesses to stop trading.
The situation seems to be descending back into anarchy, our correspondent adds.

Observers say the UIC's departure leaves a power vacuum in Mogadishu, raising fears of a return to clan warfare that has plagued the city and Somalia for 16 years.
In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said: "We will act on the basis of the advice of the transitional government and in consultation with the elders of Mogadishu but at the moment we are not in Mogadishu, we are just outside."
He added: "Our mission in Somalia is very very limited... we are not there to reconstruct Somalia economically, politically or otherwise. We are there to remove the threat of the Islamic Courts militia on Somalia and Ethiopia."
Islamic fighters have fled towards the port city of Kismayo, their last remaining stronghold, 300 miles (500km) to the south.

In parts of Mogadishu, life seemed to be going on as normal
A senior UIC official Omar Idris said the retreat was "not the end".
He told the BBC's World Today radio programme: "We know what happened in Iraq... I think this is very, very early to say that the Islamic Court forces were defeated."
Meanwhile, a UIC delegation has been in Nairobi, meeting Kenyan officials and Western diplomats.
At the weekend Ethiopia began a major offensive to support the weak government against the UIC - which previously held much of central and southern Somalia.
The conflict has killed hundreds of people. The head of the International Red Cross Somalia delegation said it was "extremely concerned about civilians caught up in the fighting".
The African Union has called for Ethiopian forces to leave Somalia.
However the UN Security Council has failed to agree on a statement calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces.
Hardline elements
The UIC has its roots in the north of Mogadishu.
Courts administering Islamic law restored order in a city bedevilled by anarchy since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
The UIC assumed control of the whole capital in June, driving warlords out and rapidly extending their influence to much of southern Somalia - with the exception of Baidoa, the seat of the transitional Somali government.
That body, set up in 2004 after talks between Somali factions, has been unable to meet in the capital because of opposition first from warlords, then from the UIC.
Almost all Somalis are Muslim and after years of lawlessness, many were happy to have some kind of law and order under the UIC.
But some are wary of the hardline elements among the UIC and do not want to be cut off from the rest of the world.
The UIC have staged public executions and floggings of people they have found guilty of crimes such as murder and selling drugs.
UIC leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is accused by both Ethiopia and the US of having links to al-Qaeda - charges he denies.



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