Islamic militiamen advance to key town near border with Ethiopia, officials say

December 11th, 2006 Print Print Email Email

The Associated Press | December 11, 2006

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Islamic militiamen were advancing to a border town that is believed to be on a supply route for Ethiopian troops in Somalia, an Islamic courts official said Monday, adding they intended to block all of the Ethiopians’ entry and exit routes.

The transitional government has sent hundreds of its troops to defend the town, Tiyeglow, from the advancing Islamic militiamen, said Mohamed Ali Gaboobe, a government militia commander, raising the possibility of another front line between the rivals being opened.

Tiyeglow is about 270 kilometers (168 miles) northwest of Baidoa, which is the government base, and is on the pothole-ridden main road between the border and Baidoa. It is believed that Tiyeglow is one of the towns through which Ethiopian troops have entered Somalia and may be on their supply route. Both the transitional government and Ethiopia have consistently denied there are Ethiopian troops in Somalia, with Ethiopia saying it only has a few hundred military advisers helping the transitional government form a national army.

“Our fighters, with large number of battle wagons, are now advancing Tiyeglow. We are going the town following and invitation from the local people, who had asked us to help them restore law and order,” said Mohamed Ibrahim Bilaal, an Islamic courts official of the Bay region.”We will go all border towns in our country to deprive our enemy of a route to enter into our country. Also we don’t want the enemy inside Somalia to get an exit route to flee from it when the jihad (holy war) starts,” Bilaal told The Associated Press by telephone.

“About 700 hundreds heavily armed troops were sent from Baidoa to Tiyeglow to protect the town from the Islamists expansionism,” Gaboobe said by phone.

The latest military build up further raises fears of intensified conflict in Somalia. The Council of Islamic Courts, which controls the Islamic militiamen, already has hundreds of combatants within striking distance of their rival forces of the transitional government at four front lines in southern and central Somalia.

The front lines are Dinsor and Bur Haqaba of Bay region in southwestern Somalia and Jawiil and Bandiradley towns in central Somalia.

On Friday and Saturday, the rivals fought at two villages outside Dinsor, during which at least 15 people were killed and 18 others wounded, witnesses said.

A Somali human rights group said on Sunday that it feared renewed fighting in Somalia could lead to a repeat past human rights violations, such as rape, torture, kidnapping and looting.

Somalia has not had an effective central government for 15 years, after warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.

A transitional government was formed two years but it has been unable to assert its authority over the country and since June the Council of Islamic Courts has seized Mogadishu and taken control of much of southern Somalia.

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