Asharq Al-Awsat- The Islamic courts have declared “a holy jihad war” on Ethiopia in what it being described as an Ethiopian invasion of Somali territories, threatening to launch a counterattack on President Abdullahi Yusuf’s interim government’s base in the southern city of Baidoa. In the first military counterstrike between the Islamic forces and the government forces, the latter allegedly supported by the Ethiopian army, the Islamists seized and regained control of Buur Hakaba city, which lies 30 km from the interim government’s base in the Baidoa. Earlier, an approximated 200-man joint force of the Ethiopian and Somali armies seized the city, which the Islamic forces had vacated, leaving it under the control of allied militias. However, this occupation did not last long as the Islamists quickly pushed into the city hundreds of fighters, supported by large caliber weapons, combat vehicles, and rocket launchers. Military and security sources from the Islamist militia, which has been in control of approximately 70 per cent of the Somali territories for over three months now, confirmed that they regained control of the city after a short battle. One of the militia members was killed and three others wounded as a result.
Somali Islamic Courts former chairman who now heads the courts’ executive committee, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, told Asharq al-Awsat, “Ethiopia’s capture of the city of Buur Hakaba constitutes a declaration of war on Somalia and an aggression against its sovereignty and territories.” He added, “Ethiopia has trespassed beyond all the red lines in the relationship between the two countries. Once again, it has armed the warlords and their militias to help trigger a new civil war in the country. As of now, we declare jihad against the state of Ethiopia whose forces have invaded Somali territories.”
Head the Union of the Islamic Courts’ Shura (a consultative body), Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys told Asharq al-Awsat, “the Islamic Courts will not stand idle in the face of the Ethiopian forces’ deployment in Somali cities, including the southern city of Baidoa. We will not stand with our hands tied. The world must intervene before serious consequences happen.” He questioned, “Why did these forces enter our territories? Who gave them permission to do so?” and added that, “there is open and flagrant violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and independence. We know our affairs best and do not need the Ethiopians. The world must immediately intervene to put an end to this farce. Failing that, we will not be responsible for any consequences.” Aweys said the interim government would be making a fatal mistake if it thinks that the Ethiopian occupation of Somali territories will save it from what he called its ‘inevitable fate’, now that it has fallen hostage to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, as he put it.
Aweys pointed out that the Somali people must now confront this occupation through every available means. He called on the international community, especially the African Union and the Arab League, to exert pressure on Ethiopia to stop its armed aggression and violation of Somalia’s sovereignty over its territories. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys announced that fighting against the Ethiopians is now a legitimate right for Somalis under the Islamic Shariah [law], adding that the Somalis are ordered to fight the enemies who attempt to usurp their homeland, steal their right to decision-making, and dictate a foreign agenda to the homeland that is not in Somalia’s interest. Aweys stressed that the Somalis have the right to defend themselves against occupation. He said that since the interim government can no longer do its job and has become a mere subordinate to Ethiopia, the Islamic Courts will lead what he described as holy jihad against the Ethiopians. He stated that the Islamic Courts have been restraining themselves for a long time in order to avoid any potential confrontation with the Ethiopian forces. He also said that the Islamic Courts had hoped that these forces would withdraw from Somali territories, but what happened in Buur Hakaba suggests that these forces intend to carry out a diabolic scheme against the Somali people’s interests, as he put it.
Second man in the Islamic Courts and Head of the Islamic Court Union’s executive committee, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, appeared for the first time wearing combat fatigues and holding his machinegun at a news conference, which was held in haste in the Mogadishu. At that news conference, he declared jihad against the invading Ethiopian forces, saying, “As of now, we declare jihad against Ethiopia”, adding, “history proves that the Somalis are always victorious over any foreign enemy.”
Meanwhile, sources from Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf’s interim government denied any support by Ethiopian forces in the attack on Buur Hakaba. They confirmed that the attack was carried out by Somali militias who oppose the Islamic Courts’ efforts to set up an Islamic state in Somalia. No comment was made by the Somali interim President Abdullahi Yusuf, or interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Ghedi, but sources close to the two men say that the third round of peace talks, which is scheduled to be take place in the Sudanese capital Khartoum between the Islamic Courts and the interim government under the sponsorship of the Arab League and Sudanese Government at the end of this month, is unlikely. However, Samir Husni, the Somali envoy for the Arab League, told Asharq al-Awsat that there has been no change of stance on either side regarding their readiness to participate in the third round of Khartoum negotiations. Husni is expected to leave Cairo for the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on his way to the interim government’s base in Baidoa to engage in talks with interim President Abdullahi Yusuf and interim Prime Minister Gedi on the latest developments in Somalia. The Arab League delegation will also visit Mogadishu before starting their tour the neighboring Somali states.
These developments took place as armed militias loyal to Somali Defense Minister Adan Barre Hiraale approached closer to the Kismayo city, which the Islamic forces seized last week. Hiraale pledged to regain control of the city, which is the third largest in Somalia, after his escape when the Islamists took over. In the aftermath of these dramatic developments, the Islamist militia declared a legitimate and armed jihad against what it called a “flagrant Ethiopian interference in the Somali people’s internal affairs”
Observers believe that it’s only a matter of time before a confrontation between the Islamic Courts militias and Ethiopian forces after the Islamic forces Shiekh declaration of jihad on the latter. Meanwhile, tension prevails in the central Juba province in southern Somalia following renewed concerns over the possibility of further clashes between the Islamists and Somali Defense Minister Adan Barre Hiraale’s militias, who have moved into the Buali area on their way to reclaim the costal city of Kismayo from the Islamic Courts.