Islamic Courts in Retreat in Somalia
The Somalia Battlefield on 12/26/2006.
Ethiopian and TFG forces take Dinsoor, Burhakaba; ICU indicated it is planning an insurgency
The Islamic Courts are in near-full retreat in central and southern Somalia after 8 days of fighting against the Ethiopian military and the Transitional Federal Government forces. Ethiopian and TFG forces have broke the cordon around western Biadoa, and have advanced as far west as Burhakaba after heavy fighting. "The [Islamic Courts] left battle wagons and large quantity of military supplies behind," according to a SomaliNet source inside the city. "Our fighters have retreated from Bur-Hakaba for military tactics," said Sheik Mohamud Ibrahim Suley, and Islamic Courts spokesman. Reports indicate the Ethiopian and TFG force are advancing from Burhakaba, "backed by tanks and airplanes," to Johwar, a town about 60 miles north of Mogadishu.
Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government forces are advancing on multiple fronts. The Islamic Courts have also abandoned Dinsoor, a strategic city at a crossroads southwest of Baidoa, the current capital of the interim Somali Transitional Federal Government. Ethiopian forces have also taken Adado, a "town in central Somalia where the Islamist militia deserted after facing bitter fighting."
The Ethiopian Air Force is continuing with deep strikes into ICU held territory, with the latest attack on the town of Lego, where the Islamic Courts have set up a defensive line about 90 miles from Mogadishu.
Both Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the Islamic Courts, Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the head of the Executive Council, have returned from abroad. Sharif has lashed out at Ethiopian for using its military power, stated the ICU was conducting a strategic withdrawal, and again denied any links with al Qaeda. Sharif is also indicating the ICU will begin to conduct insurgency operations.
"The fighting has now entered into new phase since the Ethiopians are using heavy weapons, tanks and fighter jets and bombed on several locations, we have decided to order our fighters to draw back from the towns for military techniques," Sheik Ahmed giving reasons to their retreat and loss of towns said. "Since we have no heavy weapons we would start endless hit and run fighting against the Ethiopian invaders... We are again telling the international community that we (ICU) have no links with al Qaeda and there are no terrorist members in our country, here we have Somalis who stoop up for restoring their peace and security nothing else," said Sharif.
Ethiopian claims up to 1,000 ICU fighters have been killed and 3,000 wounded. The Islamic Courts appears to be surprised by the quick advance and ferocity of attacks by the Ethiopian and TFG forces, as the hasty withdrawal from important towns, and abandoned critical weapons systems. To prevent a successful insurgency, the Ethiopian and TFG forces must press the attack, remove as many senior and mid-level ICU leaders as possible from the battlefield, seize as much territory as possible, and quickly restore order to the areas wrested from ICU. Dr. Abdiweli Ali, an adviser to the Transitional Federal Government, indicated to us that this is in the works. "There is another element in this offensive that a civilian and security administration will quickly be established in all the liberated areas," said Dr. Abdiweli Ali. Somalia has been at war since 1991, and this will be a difficult task, particularly with the ICU laying the groundwork for insurgency operations.