The Battle of Baidoa

The final showdown is taking place in Somalia between the Islamic Courts Union, backed by al Qaeda, and the Transitional Federal Government, backed by Ethiopia

Islamic Courts controlled cities and towns marked in red. Click map to view.

For months, the al Qaeda backed Islamic Courts Union has been preparing the battlefield for the final push on Baidoa, the seat of power of the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government. In a well planned operations to militarily isolate the TFG in Baidoa, the ICU has strategically maneuvered its forces around the city, and pushed its militias into surrounding towns and along the Ethiopian border. The TFG has been reinforced by the Ethiopian government, which has moved thousands of troops, with armored vehicles, into Baidoa as well as into the northern state of Puntland. Both sides have engaged in relatively minor skirmishes over the past few months, probing each others defenses and capabilities while preparing for the final confrontation.

Over the past four days, the ICU and the TFG have been engaged in heavy fighting outside of Baidoa, in the towns of Dinsor, Idale, and near Burkahaba. “Government officials said more than 600 Islamic fighters had been killed during four days of clashes,” reports the Associated Press, while the “Islamic militia said they had killed around 400 Ethiopians and government fighters.”

“Government troops killed 75 Islamist fighters and wounded 125 others, adding that 30 military vehicles were “either burned or captured” from the Islamists,” according to Mohamud “Adde” Muse, the President of Puntland while in Baidoa two days ago.

The Ethiopians are said to be sending in reinforcements. “Fresh Ethiopian armored vehicles, tanks and helicopters were seen heading to the battle forefront,” according to Shabelle. The number is put at 20 tanks and 4 helicopters. In late November, the ICU successfully ambushed two separate Ethiopian armored columns. An American intelligence source informs us the Ethiopians have again taken serious losses facing the ICU. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross provides a similar update, noting “The radical group may have won a fourth victory over the Ethiopians yesterday by capturing the town of Idale.”

The Islamic Courts vows to invade Ethiopian when the fighting is finished in Baidoa. “We will defeat the Ethiopian troops in the country and when we cross into the Ethiopian border, the world’s reaction will be unnecessary then,” said Sheik Ibrahim Shukri Abu Zainab, an ICU spokesman.

Garowe reports the ICU has closed schools and are calling for students to join the jihad. Mosques are also calling for soldiers and officers of the former Somali Army to join the fight. And the ICU is calling for all Muslims to join the fight. “Our country is open to Muslims worldwide. Let them fight in Somalia and wage jihad, and God willing, attack Addis Ababa,” said Yusuf Mohamed Siad Indohaadde, the ICU defense minister who has been videotaped in al Qaeda propaganda with foreign fighters in Somalia.

In a TFG press release on the fighting, the government claims the Islamic courts are flush with foreign fighters, and the ICU has been defeated on several fronts.

Militia forces consisting of Al-Shabaab Units of the UIC, Eritrean forces , Oromo and Jihadists from Pakistan, Sudan and other foreign countries launched attacks on the forces of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) based at Dinsor areas… An ICU militia member taken prisoner this morning at the Dinsor front, named Aden Abdullahi Mohamed, gave detailed information with regards to their capture. He said that all the top officials of their unit were killed in the fighting. He said “No officials remained to command the battle and we therefore surrendered”. He added that “six foreigners have committed suicide fearing being taken prisoner”.

Dahir Mirreh Jibril, the Permanent Secretary in Charge of International Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, provided a breakdown of the foreign fighters during an interview on Global Crisis Watch earlier this week.

Essentially there are two groups: a group of foreigners and a group of Somalis. The Somali group is called al-Shabaab (Youth)… They are offshoots of the old terrorist organization al-Ithaad al-Islami. We all know that. But they are more hardline than al-Ithaad al-Islami. The foreigners are composed of three groups. The global Islamic jihadists, which are essentially al Qaeda and al Qaeda-guided, the number is now between 2,500 and 3,000. And the other two groups who are also foreigners are Eritreans who are essentially looking to open a southern front against… Ethiopia. And the other group is the armed opposition groups that want to overthrow the Ethiopian government (Oromo Liberation Front and Ogaden National Liberation Front).”

Al-Qaeda and Islamic Courts have skillfully portrayed the Somali jihad as a popular, local, nationalist uprising against a corrupt government and foreign intervention. The international community has accepted this argument, we are now left in the position of relying on Ethiopia to hold the line against al Qaeda’s advance in the Horn of Africa.

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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6 Comments

  • RTLM says:

    Ethiopia is the second oldest Christian nation. Second to Armenia. Ethiopia is home to one of the three Wise Men who came to see Baby Jesus. If we fight for any African nation it should be for Ethiopia.

  • Nicholas says:

    It’s well past time that our nations started supporting Ethiopian and Somali government forces.
    Some serious warships, a few squadrons of fighter/bombers , attack helicopters and some large shipments of rockets, rifles, mortars and cannons should go a long way. It’s entirely clear that this conflict is becoming an international war and the ICU needs to be stopped now while it is vulnerable. It’s far easier to destroy massed forces in the field than it is to fight a counterinsurgency war.
    We should not get large numbers of infantry involved, we should let the Somalis and Ethiopians do that and bombard the ICU forces relentlessly from the air. Maybe this sounds a lot like Vietnam in the early 1960s. Well, it doesn’t matter, this threat should be taken seriously. Even if containment is the only current option, it’s better than letting them trash Somalia invade Ethiopia.
    Bottom line: this problem is going to be a lot easier to solve now than in future. Mark my words.

  • If we’re supposed to help Sudanese Muslims against their own Islamist, mass-murdering govt, shdn’t we first help Ethiopian Christins against an alQaeda govt nextdoor?

  • C-Low says:

    One Carrier task force and a couple sets of SOF equiped as spotters mixed in with the Ethiopian forces would do it. It could be handled like Afghanistan. Hell
    This would prove to all considering facing off against the Jihadi’s that the US will support you. It would allow US to open another front against the Islamist that will draw there resources and forces away without much expese on our part.
    We cannot fight every front on our own we need allies. Ehtiopia is a willing ally that can take the lead with some rather meager air support on our part.

  • The Battle of Baidoa

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    The final showdown is taking place in Somalia between the Islamic Courts Union, backed by al-Qaeda, and the Transitional Federal Government, backed by Ethiopia
    For months, the al-Qaeda backed Islamic Courts Union has bee…

  • Bruce Benz says:

    I think the West should learn a lot from this war. When the UN (well to be honest, the US) sent in troops to secure the ground a decade or so ago, they did it all peaceful and with strict ROE. Then we took a handful of loses (no disrespect to the dead, but statically they were negligible) and ran like teen school girls from drunken pig roast. No one was impressed.
    The Islamists drove up to a village, killed anyone who resisted, shot a few just to make the point, and set up a guard contingent with an Imam to teach the village the new facts of life. This scared the hell into the villages and they fell into line. This actually brought the peace the villagers were looking for!
    So, to my not so humble way of thinking, the best way to handle tribes and clans in a civil war is to do like the Islamists did. It worked. Now, the civilized world might tone it down a little. Leave out the random killings, for example.
    Another lesson from this area was that the French Foreign Legion and the US Marine Corps were respected by the locals. They waited until the elite units left and then attacked the US Army and Pakistani forces.
    Send a carrier group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit to secure an area for foreigners to bring in relief supplies.
    Please do not fall for the crud the Leftists spew about if you feed them and coddle them than after a decade or three they will love us! Blech! Even leaves a bad taste when typed and not spoken.
    What possible reason is there to negotiate with the barbarians? That is what the political types just do not under stand.
    Sorry to rant on your blog. Just hit a nerve funny I guess.

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