Hunting the Islamic Courts on the Kenyan Border

The Somalia Battlefield on 12/29/2006.
Light blue – Ethiopian & TFG advances.
Green – ICU territory.
Orange – recent clashes.
Click image to view.

Islamic Courts spokesman claims its leaders are still in country

Ethiopian armored an air formations continue to pursue the remnants of the Islamic Courts army that has fled the battlefield in southern Somalia. Fighting has been reported near the Kenyan border town of Liboi, where Ethiopian MiGs and Hind helicopters are said to be attacking Islamic Courts fighters. Yesterday, Ethiopian helicopters fired rockets across the Kenyan border after misidentifying the target. No casualties were reported, and the Kenyan government moved armor into the region. We noted on December 30th that as the fighting moves to the Kenyan border, the chance of cross border incidents will increase. In the town of Jilib, the scene of an intense yet brief battle before Kismayo was abandoned, two Ethiopian soldiers were killed after an Islamic Courts fighter fired on a group of soldiers.

Abdirahim Ali Mudey, a spokesman for the Islamic Courts, has vowed to continue the fight, and claims the Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the former chairman of the Islamic Courts, Hassan Dahir Aweys and the rest of the leadership are still in country and are being protected by their clans. “We did not go beyond our country. We will keep fighting until all Ethiopian troops leave our country”, said Mudey. “If the world thinks we are dead, they should know we are alive and will continue the jihad against the infidels in our country… I can not say where we are but we are in Somalia and we are not afraid any more.”

We asked Dr. Abdiweli Ali, a professor at Niagra University who is in contact with the Somali government, about the possible whereabouts of the senior leadership of the Islamic Courts. “Aweys, Ayrow, and Indha’adde belong to Ayr sub-clan of Habargedir clan. They hail from Dusa-mareb in central Somalia. However, they can’t hide there. If they are in Somalia, they are either on the run in Southern Somalia or in Mogadishu where they have a lot of supporters. Sharif hails from Abgal Clan. He is from Jowhar, but his arch-enemy cousin Mohamed Dhere is in charge of Jowhar. Therefore, he couldn’t be there for sure. He is either in Mogadishu or somewhere in the south.”

Dr. Abdiweli Ali also noted that Indha’adde and Abu Mansoor are currently in Saudi Arabia. “Indha’adde and Abu Mansoor are in Saudi Arabia for the Haj Pilgrimage,” said Dr. Ali. “The Saudi government should hand them over to the TFG [Transitional Federal Government], and the US government should pressure the Saudi government to hand over these criminals.”

Mudey also claims the Islamic Courts’ abandonment of the battlefield was designed, and an insurgency will ensue. “The attack is what we have been promising, as a change of tactic in the fight against the Ethiopians,” Mudey said. “We are scattered all over, our troops are almost everywhere.”

As the Somali government attempts to consolidate power and restore order, the Ethiopians are hoping to withdraw the bulk of their combat forces within the next month. The quest for African peace keepers has begun. Uganda has pledged 1,000 troops, and said they are prepared to deploy, while Nigeria has also indicated it will send an unspecified number of troops.

In perhaps the first serious public misstep by the Somali government, Hussein Mohamed Aideed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, was quoted as saying the Somali-Ethiopian border would be dissolved and the militaries merged. Aideed, a former U.S. Marine and the son of Mohammed Farrah Aideed, the wanted warlord during the UN intervention in the 1990’s, vigorously denied this, and claimed he was misquoted. “I am totally against the way my yesterday’s speech was translated, I did not say Somalia should be added on Ethiopia but I meant both countries should have deep relationship and change the animosity into friendship and work together to promote each other socially and economically,” Aideed said, according to SomaliNet. “It is absolutely baseless and untrue the words that the media quoted me and they are lying about me,”

Whether misquoted or not, Abdirahim Ali Mudey, the Islamic Courts spokesman, has already seized on this incident as evidence of Ethiopian perfidy. “I heard the news that Aideed said Somalia and Ethiopia should be one country. That is irresponsibility of him and his remarks disappoint many Somali citizens.” Expect Aideed’s words to be used in al Qaeda and Islamic Courts propaganda as further evidence of the ‘Ethiopian Crusade’ against the Somali people.

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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