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.