Yes, I am a liberal.
- Aug 24, 2006
I'd be lying if I said this didn't make me smile...even if it were only a little bit.
Somalis flee as militamen gather
POSTED: 11:23 a.m. EDT, October 22, 2006
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Scores of residents of a southern Somalia town began fleeing early Sunday, fearing renewed fighting between government forces and their rivals, Islamic militiamen who control the capital and much of southern Somalia, witnesses said.
Residents began fleeing at dawn, following rumors that the Islamic militia would on Sunday morning attack Bur Haqaba, which they lost to government forces Saturday, said Mustaf Mo'alin Hassan, a shopkeeper in the town.
Bur Haqaba, a hilltop town, is the main town on the main road between the base of the transitional government, Baidoa, and the capital, Mogadishu.
Overnight, as many as 500 militiamen with dozens of pickups mounted with machine-guns from Baidoa arrived in Bur Haqaba to join the government troops, which are backed by Ethiopian soldiers, said Ahmed Salad, a radio operator in the town told The Associated Press by phone.
Some reports indicate that the rival forces could be as near as 18 kilometers (11 miles) apart.
Abdullahi Ahmed Warsame, a top commander with the Islamic militias, told journalists in the seaport of Kismayo that on Sunday they seized Bajuma, about 350 kilometers (218 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, from militiamen loyal to Defense Minister Col. Barre "Hirale" Aden Shire.
Warsame declined to give any details on casualties, only saying that they had captured 10 pickups mounted with machine-guns from Shire's militiamen.
In Mogadishu, Islamic militiamen went around Sunday in minibuses mounted with speakers calling on Somalis to prepare for holy war against Ethiopians in Bur Haqaba.
Hassan told the Associated Press on telephone that he had sent his wife and children to the government's base, Baidoa, which is 60 kilometers (35 miles) northwest of Bur Haqaba, but he would remain to guard the family's property.
People are fleeing Bur Haqaba on foot, aboard donkey carts and minibuses, carrying belongings. They are fleeing to Baidoa, Mogadishu and neighboring villages.
One of the government troops' commander, Mohamed Sheikh, better known as Afweyne, said his forces will defend Bur Haqaba and are ready to move into other major towns in Somalia.
"We have certain that we can defend it," Sheikh told The Associated Press by telephone from Bur Haqaba. "Our troops are committed to restore law and order throughout Somalia."
An Islamic courts leader, Mohamed Ibrahim Bilaal, said thousands of heavily armed Islamic fighters are ready to go to Bur Haqaba.
Islamic militiamen seized Bur Haqaba on July 19 and held onto it until Oct. 9, when government forces backed by Ethiopian troops seized control of it without a fight. They later withdrew and returned to their bases near Baidoa.
Residents and aid workers have reported that Ethiopian troops first entered Somalia, going to Baidoa on July 20 to protect Ethiopia's ally, President Abdullahi Yusuf's weak U.N.-backed transitional government.
This occurred as Somalia's Islamic courts consolidated their control over much of southern Somalia after seizing the capital in June.
Ethiopia and the transitional government have always denied that there are Ethiopian troops in the country, only saying that Somalia's western neighbor has sent military trainers to help the government form a national army.
However, government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, say about 6,000 Ethiopian troops are in the country or encamped on the 1,600-kilometer (990-mile) porous border. Ethiopia, with almost half of its 77 million population Muslim, fears fundamentalism in its neighbor.
Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.
Yusuf's government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help in hopes of restoring order after years of bloodshed.
But it has never asserted much authority, and the Islamic group, trying to fill the power vacuum, seized control of much southern Somalia in June. Its strict and often severe interpretation of Islam raises the specter of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.