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Islamic forces retreating in Somalia, leader says

Islamic forces retreating in Somalia, leader says

Islamic fighters were in a tactical retreat yesterday, a senior Islamic leader said, as government and Ethiopian troops advanced on three fronts in a decisive turn around in the battle for control of Somalia.
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, leader of the Council of Islamic Courts' executive body, told reporters in Mogadishu that his movement would not engage in any peace process as long as Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia.
"We have asked our troops to withdraw from some areas," he said. "The war is entering a new phase. We will fight Ethiopia for a long, long time and we expect the war to go everyplace."
Ahmed declined to explain is comments in greater detail, but some Islamic leaders have threatened a guerrilla war to include suicide bombings in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
Islamic troops withdrew more than 80 kilometers to the southeast from Daynuney, a town just south of Baidoa, the government headquarters. The retreat along the western front follows the bombing by Ethiopian jets of the country's two main international airports.
Advancing government and Ethiopian troops captured Bur Haqaba, one of the Islamists' main bases after it was abandoned early yesterday.
"We woke up from our sleep this morning and the town was empty of troops, not a single Islamic fighter," Ibrahim Mohamed Aden, a resident of Bur Haqaba said.
Islamic fighters were also reportedly retreating on two other fronts. On the southern front, government troops were advancing on Dinsor.
On the northern front, government and Ethiopian troops entered the town of Bulo Barde, where just two weeks ago an Islamic cleric said anyone who did not pray five times a day would be executed. Government and Ethiopian troops were headed for Jowhar, 90 kilometers north of Mogadishu, after driving Islamic troops from Bandiradley, Adadow and Galinsor.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced on Saturday that he had sent troops into Somalia to fight international terrorists, defend Ethiopian interests and prop up the besieged U.N.-backed government, which only has a very small military force.
But Meles has said he does not intend to keep his forces in Somalia for long, perhaps only a few weeks. He has told visiting dignitaries in Addis Ababa that his goal is to severely damage the courts' military capabilities, take away their sense of invincibility and allow both sides to return to peace talks on even footing.
Meles said he would not send troops into Mogadishu, but instead encircle the city to contain the Islamic forces.
The Islamic group, which wants to rule the country by the Quran, has been a source of grave concern by largely Christian Ethiopia. Since June, the group has seized control of the capital and much of southern Somalia.
No reliable casualty reports were immediately available. Both sides have claimed to have killed hundreds of their enemy, but independent observers were not given access to the battlefield.
The Arab League, which has mediated several rounds of talks between the Somali government and the Islamists, called for all parties involved to "immediately hold a comprehensive cease-fire."


Updated : 2021-06-16 06:56 GMT+08:00