Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia are getting ready to send troops into Somalia to stop Islamist insurgents from taking over the country. But the al-Qaeda linked al-shabab, which has taken over police stations and other key locations in Mogadishu, capital city of Somalia, has warned foreign troops to keep off.
There are some 4,300 African Union troops deployed in Mogadishu, but they lack any mandate to pursue the insurgents. According to Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur, Speaker of the Somalia parliament, Saturday, “The government is weakened by the rebel forces. We ask neighbouring countries – including Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Yemen – to send troops to Somalia within 24 hours.”
Kenya had said it would not stand by and let the situation in Somalia deteriorate further because it would destabilise the region. Ethiopia sent thousands of troops into Somalia in 2006 to help topple an Islamist movement holding Mogadishu and most of the south.
This deployment drew protests from some in the Muslim world and enraged the Islamists, who regrouped to launch an insurgency. However, Ethiopia is wary of having a hardline Islamist state next door and so will be prepared to help out. On June 12, heavily-armed Ethiopian soldiers crossed into central Somalia and entered a town controlled by a pro-government militia.
Western nations fear that the Islamist rebels could use southern Somalia as a base to destabilize neighbors such as Kenya and Ethiopia. The militant Islamist group al-Shabab has warned Kenya not to intervene: “If it tries to, we will attack Kenya and destroy the tall buildings of Nairobi,” Sheik Hasan Yacqub is quoted as saying. According to Voice Of America, the spokesman for the hardline Islamist al-Shabab militia on Sunday backed the group’s leader’s warning saying that any foreign troops that enter the Somalia will be ‘sent back in coffins’.
On Wednesday Mogadishu’s police commander was killed, on Thursday Somalia’s security minister was killed in a suicide attack in the northern town of Beledweyne, and on Friday gunmen killed Mohamed Hussein Addow, a politician who represented northern Mogadishu province of Karan.
The UN refugee agency says more than 100,000 people have been forced out of their homes since May and half-a-million internally displaced people now languish on the outskirts of Mogadishu and some four million Somalis are in dire need of medical and food aid.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. The Islamist insurgents are bent on taking over Somalia. Comprised of a former British protectorate and an Italian colony, the country was created when the two territories were amalgamated in 1960.
Since then its development has been slow. Relations with neighbors have been soured by its territorial claims on Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.