Al-Qa'ida 'Affiliates' Reportedly Take Central Town Without Fighting
Friday, March 7, 2008
Report from Cairo by Khalid Mahmud: "Mujahidin Youth Movement Announces Takeover of the Town of Haidar in Central Somalia"
Fighting escalated yesterday (6 March) between Somali and Ethiopian forces and armed opposition groups. The radical Shabab al-Mujahidin movement announced it had taken over the town of Hudur, the capital of Bakool Province in Central Somalia, without fighting.
The movement said the inhabitants of the town welcomed its elements headed by Shaykh Mukhtar Robow (Abu-Mansur), its official spokesman, one of those considered to be affiliated to Al-Qa'ida organization, after the forces of the Somali Army in the town were liquidated.
A Somali official conceded the defeat of his forces and that they had fled out of the town. But he said in a phone communication with Al-Sharq al-Awsat from the Somali capital Mogadishu that the withdrawal was tactical, denying that the town has any strategic importance.
Elements from the Somali resistance attacked the night before last (5 March) a Somali Army checkpoint on the main road between Mogadishu and Afgoy. The attack left five government soldiers killed.
The site of the Opposition Alliance which has its headquarters in the Eritrean capital Asmara said that the attack was aimed at stopping what it described as royalties imposed by army elements on public transport vehicles from and to Mogadishu.
The body of a Somali citizen was found yesterday (6 March) near the building of the former Ministry of Defense, where Ethiopian forces have set their camp in the capital. It was believed he was killed in earlier fighting between the opposition and Ethiopian forces.
The Somali Government announced meanwhile that the attacks carried out lately by American aircraft against positions believed to be for affiliates of Al-Qa'ida organization in Southern Somalia were carried out through coordination and consultation with Somali President Abdallahi Yusuf and his Prime Minister Colonel Nur Hasan Husayn (Adde).
Abdi Hadji Goydon, the Somali Government's official spokesman, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat in a phone contact from Mogadishu that the American Administration informed Yusuf and Adde of the time, location, and objective of the missile strike within the framework of joint cooperation between the two sides to combat terrorism.
"We gave the American forces the permission and the green light to launch this strike," he said, pointing out that extremist elements from Al-Qa'ida organization are present in the area targeted by the strike.
He made it clear that his country was prepared to cooperate with any international quarter to curtail the terrorist activity of these elements. But he refused to disclose whether any of those assumed to belong to Al-Qa'ida organization were killed in the strike.
The Shabab al-Mujahidin movement, which is against the Somali Government and foreign military presence in Somalia, announced that none of its leading figures were hurt in the raids launched by American military aircraft. The movement said in a statement to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that none of its elements were killed in the two American raids on the Dhobley region, in the Somali-Kenyan border area. It said that what it described as open American interference was mounted after the Ethiopians failed to face its combatants in all the areas of their presence in east and west Somalia.
But the Somali Opposition Alliance said the American bombing of the area left four dead and more than 20 injured, in addition to the killing of a number of cows. The Front of the Provinces of Bay and Bakool under Shaykh Mukhtar Robo (Abu-Mansur), the official spokesman for Shabab al-Mujahidin movement, announced the day before yesterday (5 March) it has taken control of the areas of Wajid, Burhakabah, and Barbarto Mountains in the region. The same front imposed full control last week on Dinsor town, an area considered of strategic importance for the logistics of Somali and Ethiopian forces near the town of Baidao, the stronghold of the Transitional Government in Southern Somalia.
Muhammad Umar Habib (Dheere), the Mayor of Mogadishu launched a sharp attack against three radio stations (Horn of Africa, Shabeele, and Simba) which were raided abruptly last Sunday. One of their managers was taken into custody.
Dheere said these radio stations must stop broadcasting what he described as misleading reports. He threatened they would be sued and penalized if they continued to disseminate reports threatening stability and security in the town.
The Committee for Protection of Journalists urged the Somali Government to control security forces in order to stop the increasing attacks on journalists and media organizations. But Somalia's Information Minister Ahmad Abd-al-Salam said his Government had issued no orders to raid the three stations. He pointed out that Prime Minister Nur Adde has asked for an emergency meeting by concerned governmental bodies to investigate the circumstances of the incident. Seven journalists were killed last year during their performance of their duties and 50 others fled from Mogadishu.
(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat in Arabic -- Influential Saudi-owned London daily providing independent coverage of Arab and international issues; editorials reflect official Saudi views on foreign policy.
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