Thursday, December 28, 2006

Somali Islamists withdraw from Mogadishu

Africa: Ethopia deserves some praise.

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The Islamist forces who have controlled Somalia's capital for months abandoned the city to clan rule on Thursday after government forces advanced to within striking distance. An AP reporter in Mogadishu saw gunmen taking off their Islamist uniforms and submitting to the command of traditional elders. Gunfire echoed through the streets as people began looting Islamist bases and buildings belonging to Islamist officials, witnesses said. "I have seen that the Islamists are defeated, I'm going to rejoin my clan," said gunman Mohamed Barre Sidow. "I was forced to join the Islamic courts by my clan, so I now I will return to my clan and they will decide my fate, whether I join the government or not." Residents south of the city reported seeing Islamist forces in a long convoy heading south. The Council of Islamic Courts seized the capital in June and went on to take much of southern Somalia, often without fighting. They were later joined by foreign militants, including Pakistanis and Arabs, who supported their goal of making Somalia an Islamic state.
Reuters seems a bit sad the Islamists are leaving.
The retreat came hours after a joint force of Ethiopian and Somali government troops advanced to just 30 km (18 miles) from Mogadishu, threatening to besiege the capital rather than attack it. Witnesses reported looting late on Wednesday in Mogadishu which has enjoyed a semblance of law and order since the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) seized it from U.S.-backed warlords in June. Gunshots echoed in the air early on Thursday, in a sign the city may descend back into anarchy.

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