Islamic Courts attacks an Ethiopian military convoy; Aweys calls for a “Greater Somalia” in the Horn of Africa
The Islamic Courts Union has ambushed an Ethiopian military column of 80 vehicles, and killed 6 Ethiopian soldiers and wounded 20. The Islamic courts conducted a sophisticated attack against a professional military, hitting the column with roadside bombs first, then attacking with small arms. The ICU force is estimated at about 50 fighters. The Ethiopians were transiting to Baidoa, and hit near Bardale, about 50 miles southwest of Baidoa. There are no reports of RPGs or anti-tank weapons used during the engagement at this time.
An Islamic Courts spokesman confirmed the engagement, as did an anonymous member of the Transitional Federal Government. The TFG assistant minister of defense has denied the attack occurred, calling it “a propaganda.” The Associated Press calls the ambush “the first known skirmish between the rival forces,” however this is not accurate. The ICU captured an Ethiopian reconnaissance officer during fighting near Baidoa at the end of October [which the Associated Press reported…]
The Islamic courts are importing tactics from both al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and bring them to bear against the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian forces in Somalia. Over the summer, the Islamic Court used suicide bombers for the first time in Baidoa. The roadside bombs used in the weekend ambush were tested and perfected by al Qaeda and Hezbollah in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.
Last week, the United Nations issued a report on Somalia, stating 720 Somalis were sent to Lebanon to receive training and fight against the Israelis (although it should be noted the Israelis never identified Somalis killed or captured on the battlefield, the likelihood is the Somalis trained and operated in rear areas.) “At least 100 Somali fighters returned, along with five Hezbollah members, while an unknown number stayed in Lebanon for advanced military training,” notes Reuters.
As the Islamic Courts grows bold and directly attacks the Ethiopian supply lines, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, the al Qaeda linked leader of the Islamic Courts Union, has called for a “Greater Somalia” in the Horn of Africa. “We will leave no stone unturned to integrate our Somali brothers in Kenya and Ethiopia and restore their freedom to live with their ancestors in Somalia,” said Aweys, during an interview with Shabelle Radio. The Ethiopian and Kenyan governments have a vested interest in seeing the Islamic Courts fail, and for good reason.
Meanwhile, Aweys and the ICu continue to build a “Greater Somalia” within Somali territory. The ICU continues to turn Somalia into a Taliban-like state. The ICU officially banned khat, a popular leafy drug chewed by any in the Horn of Africa. The ICU opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Mogadishu upset over the Khat ban, killing one 13 year old boy and wounding several others. Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products is now forbidden. The Somali Tobacco Company was forced to burned its stocks, and the ICU arrested 22 smokers in Kismayo, “where they will be flogged if found guilty of violating a new tobacco ban.” The ICU also shut down a wine factory in Mogadishu.