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Shabaab takes control of Somalia's seat of government


Click map to view. Southern Somalia is now under the control of Shabaab and other Islamist groups. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.

Al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia took control of the last stronghold of Somalia's troubled Transitional Federal Government today, just hours after Ethiopian troops withdrew.

Forces from Shabaab rolled into the southern town of Baidoa less than one day after Ethiopian soldiers pulled out of the town. Shabaab forces clashed with "a group of rag-tag clan militias" that attempted to stop their advance, Garowe reported. The militia fled after a brief gun battle. Four people were reported killed and 10 more were wounded in the brief fighting.

Shabaab took control of strategic locations in Baidoa, including the parliament, police stations, and an airfield. Several politicians, including a minister in the Transitional Federal Government, were captured by Shabaab forces, but were quickly released.

Ethiopian forces moved into Baidoa during the summer of 2006 after the radical Islamic Courts Union took control of most of southern Somalia. The operation to eject the Islamic Courts Union from power was launched from Baidoa in December 2006. The Ethiopian withdrawal from Baidoa ends the two-year occupation, which was mired in violence.

The parliament of the Transitional Federal Government met in Baidoa as the capital of Mogadishu was too dangerous. Recently, the parliament has been meeting in Djibouti, where just yesterday it voted to expand membership to include representatives of the Islamist Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.

The Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia is an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which took control of Somalia during the summer and fall of 2006. The United Nations brokered a peace agreement between the Transitional Federal Government and the Djibouti wing of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, which called for power-sharing and an end to the fighting. The Asmara wing of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, Shabaab, and other Islamist groups denounced the negotiations and continued to take control of the south.

Shabaab is consolidating its hold on southern Somalia. In the port city of Kismayo, Somalia's second largest city, riots broke out after Shabaab closed a soccer stadium and turned it into a market. Hundreds of young men rampaged in the stadium, burning makeshift stands. The ruling Islamists are debating the banning of all sports in Kismayo.

The African Union believes Shabaab is planning further suicide attacks in Mogadishu. "We have information indicating that two more cars full of explosives were prepared by the hardliners to target the African peacekeepers' positions," an African Union spokesman told AFP. "We warn civilians to be cautious." A suicide attack outside an African Union base two days ago killed 17 civilians.

Shabaab has promised to continue to attack African Union forces. The terror group and other Islamist militias rolled into Mogadishu more than a week ago after Ethiopian forces withdrew from the city.



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READER COMMENTS: "Shabaab takes control of Somalia's seat of government"

Posted by KaneKaizer at January 26, 2009 10:10 PM ET:

Great, this problem won't be going away anytime soon. I can only wonder what Shabaab's next move will be after re-conquering Somalia? Is it possible there will be terror attacks inside Ethiopia? And how would they respond?

The Islamists are bound to be even more determined to launch attacks after fighting the Ethiopians for two years. And with Eritrean support, things aren't looking good in the Horn of Africa at all.

Posted by Chris at January 29, 2009 6:57 AM ET:

Another failed state, another Islamic insurgency. The US can't control all of them. Afghanistan is about all we can handle, right now. Until the EU decides to recognize the problem and have the motivation to do something, this will continue. Watch for Sudan, Madagascar, Congo, and former Soviet States to follow suit.

It's not far fetched to keep an eye on Mexico....

Posted by James Dahl at January 30, 2009 2:46 AM ET:

The map provided with this article is not strictly true, TFG forces still control the northern 2/3rds of Gedo and Bakool, as well as a narrow strip of territory from Bakool to Mudug.

I have been attempting to keep a relatively accurate map here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Somalia_map_states_regions_districts.png

Posted by Bill Raymond at January 30, 2009 10:28 AM ET:

Hey James, Thank you for the comment. I'm the cartographer for the LWJ. We are currently in the process of developing our Somalia maps. We published this particular one to help readers see the over all picture. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

Posted by James Dahl at January 31, 2009 12:01 AM ET:

With the election of Sheikh Sharif Ahmad to the presidency of the Republic of Somalia, things will change rapidly on the ground. Until the reaction of the Asmara wing, and al-Shabab, to his election is registered, and public reaction to their announcements is registered into the political realities of Somalia, things are "in flux".

As it is, the 2006-2009 phase of the Somali conflict is over. It is now a question of whether this is an end to fighting in general or if a new conflict between the ARS and al-Shabab begins.