Puntland, Somalia Clash south of Galkayo; Iran's Hand
Fighting breaks out in Puntland; Iran supplies weapons and other support to the Islamic Courts
Islamic Court Militia cheers during the handing over of weapons by the rivall militia in Mogadishu, Thursday, July 13, 2006. (AP Photo / Mohamed Sheikh Nor.) Click image to view.
The Islamic Courts Union and forces from the semi autonomous Somali state of Puntland have battled yet again just south of the city Galkayo. The Puntland government claims to have beaten back the ICU, which initiated the fight. "Our forces drove Islamic militants back to their barracks and retook positions," said Abdirahman Bangax, Puntland's Minister of Information. Protests against the Islamic Courts have broken out in the Puntland city of Garowe.
The ICU claims to have defeated the Puntland forces and taken territory. "We have seized villages like Bandiradley, Sadah-hagle, Dagaari and Halaal which 20 km away from Galkayo", according to Agoweyne, a spokesman for the Islamic Courts. Agoweyne claims to have "captured 22 militiamen, 5 vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns and two tanks."
Late last week, the spokesman of the semi-autonomous state of Galmugug, which is just south of Galkayo, requested Puntland withdrawal its forces from the region. Another Islamic Court was set up the the Puntland region of Las Anod, the second time this year.
In Baidoa, where the final showdown between the Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Government is being played out, the TFG has suffered further losses without a shot fired. "Thirty government troops with five battlewagons mounted with anti-aircraft guns" defected to nearby Islamic Courts fighters. The two forces are now said to be squaring off between Baidoa and Burhakaba, about 20 miles west of Baidoa.
While the Islamic Courts probes the situation in Puntland and waits to strike in Baidoa, the United Nations issued a report "on violations to a widely flouted 1992 arms embargo on Somalia." Reuters summarizes the report. Iran and Hezbollah, Shiite Muslims, are supporting the Sunni, al Qaeda affiliate known as the Islamic Courts.
Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia are giving support to the Islamists, the report says. The Islamists also have links with militant Muslim groups including Hezbollah, the report says... Iran has provided at least 250 anti-aircraft missiles to the Islamists, the report says.
The UN report also notes there are "Roughly 1,000 foreign jihadists with combat experience or volunteers with training in bomb-making and assassination."
An American intelligence source informs us Iran has provided the ICU with sophisticated anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. Iran is believed to have shipped SA-7 Strella and SA-18 Igla MANPADS - shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles - as well as AT-3 Sagger antitank missiles. Hezbollah employed the Saggers effectively against the armor of the Israeli Defense Force in southern Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war last summer. The influx of such weaponry in well trained hands would spell trouble for Ethiopian Army and Air Forces expected to join the battle against the Islamic Courts.