Islamic Courts in Retreat in Somalia

The Somalia Battlefield on 12/26/2006.
Light blue – Ethiopian & TFG advances.
Green – ICU territory.
Orange – recent clashes.
Click image to view.

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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14 Comments

  • Dom says:

    It’s good to see Al-Qaeda being successfully challenged in Africa, no matter how vociferously they deny their responsibility for violating the Somali people and their institutions. With all due respect to the determination and the courage of the Ethopian combatants, I doubt very much such a muscular reaction would have been politically viable if the US had not shown itself willing to confront the Jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq for years already. This Ethopian initiative deserves all the popular support it receives in Somalia as well as full US support.
    May they maintain their precious momentum and soon discredit the Jihadists in one of their wished-for heavens!
    Dom.

  • Casey says:

    Don’t believe the hype that Ethiopia “

  • Roberto says:

    Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
    The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
    And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
    But there is no joy in Mudville mighty Casey has struck out.

  • Judge says:

    The facts are simple. The islamists can’t stand and fight. The cowards are at their best when they attack unarmed women and children. This is no jihad, these are the tactics of a weak and pathetic enemy, whose only asset is their hatred of others – with a religion that teaches mothers to hate Christians and Jews more than they love their children.
    It is evil and cowardly at the core. It will lose.

  • Pat Patterson says:

    I can only hope that this new front in Somalia can lessen the feeling of Islamist “inevitability”. Much like scientific socialism, that the future is ordained either because the proper events leading to the utopia of the proletariat or that god or Allah has willed these things to happen. If there is doubt then there is hope.

  • sangell says:

    For the past 20 years the problem hasn’t been
    toppling “governments” in Somalia. It has been
    establishing one.
    While it is good to see Ethiopia giving the UIC a good licking that does not mean that there is
    any viable government riding in to take control.

  • Mike says:

    Casey,
    Of course no one belives the body counts! No one does when 2 3rd world countries fight, both sides usually exagerate. But I wouldn’t say that they aren’t driving them from most towns. They are militarily superior and it shows. As for the Somali’s hating Ethiopia, they do but most of them hate the ICU even more. These folks haven’t had anyone telling them what to do for over a decade and then these ICU guys try and stop all the “fun”. That would be like going into Vegas and telling everyone to stop drinking and smoking and to smile while doing it.

  • patrick says:

    listening to German radio the other night. interview mentioned ” when a man dies a whole library dies. ” its part of an Ethiopian African philosophy of respect sentimental feelings and endearment to the value of life. the visitor to the show – born in Ethiopia living in Germany mentioned there was or is a German language spoken in Ethiopia not spoken in Germany for 300 years. ( a language with roots to old Germany – cultural association. ) possibly ; Moses took a wife ; who was Ethiopian ? 10 Commandments. ( a value system ). Ethiopia is border to Somolia. Ethiopian warriors know how to deal with religious sectarian militants because of their regional background. alot of enemy equipment left behind. what a treasure trove of classified information and technology ! enemy demoralised by the attacks.

  • pedestrian says:

    Go back to your Muj TV channel and keep dreaming, Casey. Taliban lost Afghanistan, and the ICU will lose Somalia as well. The good news is that American bashing media will be less interested in Somalia as long as there are no American force, just like the conflict in Sudan, and many others. Global war against terrorism is pushing terrorists in the corner. Afghanistan yesterday, and Somalia Tommorow.

  • Kibitzer says:

    On the upside:
    The Ethiopian military has a very good record — some rated them better than Americans on a soldier-for-soldier basis in Korea and they’ve had plenty of experience since.
    They have comparatively overpowering air power and armor. Armor is something like 100-200 T-55 tanks. I understand that during periods when maintenance is not Russian-contracted operational air assets drop to 1/3 to 1/2 of inventory but in theory their air power maybe looks something like this:
    10? MiG-21MF (out of about 30, many used for spare parts),
    8 MiG-21-2000 (Israeli upgrade),
    15? Mig23BNs,
    3 SU-25s,
    9 Su-27s (including 2 trainers),
    20 Mi-24/35, and
    20 Mi-8.
    If the ICU has lots of new MANPADS and ATGW but the vendors didn’t stick around to operate them it doesn’t do the ICU any good.
    Lots of fanatics showing up at the last minute does not an army make — just a turkey shoot.
    If the ICU goes for MOUT the Ethiopians could just use artillery to rout them — no concern for civilian casualties. If they try partisan ops the Ethiopians can make the clans responsible for the actions of their members (or face more artillery).
    The downside:
    The only group with nation-building skills equal to taking chaos to order in the Arab world is the Islamofascists. Everyone else seems to end up in an “American Standoff” — clear anything but hold nothing. Also, If Eritrea actually has the balls to re-open their war with Ethiopia all bets are off.

  • Web Reconnaissance for 12/27/2006

    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • SpeckBlog says:

    Islamic Courts in Retreat in Somalia (The Fourth Rail)

    The Fourth Rail
    Go Ethiopia! Follow the link. Complete story with links including maps are available.
    The Islamic Courts are in near-full retreat in central and southern Somalia after 8 days of fighting against the Ethiopian military and the Transi…

  • eLarson says:

    [The Ethiopians are] paid by the US on a performance basis.
    Wot? No citation? Shocking… just shocking.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    “It seems that a lot of poor farmers are getting blown to bits just so the Ethiopian dictator can put on a good face to get his $1.8 Billion from Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank.”

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