Somalia continues the slide into the darkness of a radical Islamist state. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the al Qaeda linked leader of the Islamic Courts is consolidating power in Somalia by taking control of vital lines of communications, organizing the army of the Islamic Courts, and instituting shariah law throughout the areas it controls.
As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has noted, the Islamic Courts have taken control of the port cities of Harardhere, Eldher and Hoyobo, as well as Beletuein on the border with Ethiopia. The flights of arms shipments from Kazakistan reported by Douglas Farah continue to fly into Mogadishu’s airport to this day.
The Islamic Courts, using money funneled from the Arabian peninsula, is arming its fighters with new weapons, and sending its fighters to receive professional training. “This is the beginning, but thousands of other gunmen will be trained. You are the ones who will disarm civilians, restore law and order and help enforce Sharia law,” Aweys said to a group of 600 fighters at the Hilweyne military camp. As the army of the Islamic Courts ramps up, soldiers of the Transitional Federal Government (TGF) continue to defect. Over 100 TGF fighters stationed near Baidoa have defected to the Islamic Courts, and 500 total have defected since the Islamic Courts grabbed power in July.
The Islamic Courts is further consolidating power by instituting a program to disarm Somalis not affiliated with the Islamists. They are disarming any potential rivals. The imposition of strict shariah law continues. Three Somalis caught in possession of marijuana were publicly whipped in Mogadishu. The Islamic Courts are organizing “a national forum to chart the lawless country’s future,” further eroding the power of the Transitional Federal Government. A Hezbollah-styled aid program is being set up to gain the loyalty of the Somalis.
The Ethiopian government is looking upon the rise of the Islamic Courts in Somalia with dismay, and continues to pour troops into the country. Ethiopian troops started reinforcing the failing Transitional Federal Government in Baidoa at the beginning of July, and this effort continues. Over 300 heavily armed Ethiopian troops have passed through the border town of Awdiinle and are reported to be heading to Baidoa. The Guardian reports Ethiopian “troops entered the town of Galkayo, driving seven pickup trucks mounted with machine guns and six trucks loaded with boxes.” The Ethiopian government denies any incursions into Somalia, but Ethiopian forces have been in and around Baidoa for two months now.
Both the Ethiopians and the Islamic Courts appear to be waiting for the other to make the first move and spark the war. The Islamic Courts continues to call for Jihad “against ‘the enemy of Somalia'” and warned African peacekeeprs from deploying to Somalia. The Islamic Courts may be setting their sights on the Puntland region in central Somalia before dealing with the Ethiopians. In the mean time, the Islamic Courts consolidates their hold on power in Somalia, and the 17 terror training camps continue to churn out new fighters for the Islamic Courts and al Qaeda.
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