By Simon Assaf
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2049

Ethiopian army kills thousands in Somalia

This article is over 16 years, 11 months old
A savage bombardment of the Somali capital Mogadishu by occupying Ethiopian forces has left thousands dead and driven over 350,000 people from their homes.
Issue 2049
Collecting water in a Somali refugee camp last week (Pic: Irin news)
Collecting water in a Somali refugee camp last week (Pic: Irin news)

A savage bombardment of the Somali capital Mogadishu by occupying Ethiopian forces has left thousands dead and driven over 350,000 people from their homes.

Ethiopian troops, with the backing of their Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) allies, are attempting to crush a rebellion.

Eyewitnesses describe how ‘columns of Ethiopian tanks ploughed into northern Mogadishu’.

Rockets have rained down, leaving much of the city in ruins. Several missiles hit an orphanage run by the charity SOS Children. Bodies of civilians littered the streets.

In a statement issued on Thursday of last week, SOS Children said that ‘those who can run have done so, and others, who are more seriously wounded, have been evacuated from the hospital by their friends and relatives’.

According to the United Nations the situation has become desperate as tens of thousands of people, among them those seriously wounded, are trapped in the capital.

Only one hospital remains open, while the US-backed government has choked off desperately needed supplies.

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in January this year to drive out the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) as part of the US ‘war on terror’ in the Horn of Africa.

The UIC took control of the capital in June 2006 during a popular revolt against the warlords that ruled the country from 1991 onwards.

The warlords had divided the country into private fiefdoms and vied for control of neighbourhoods in a decade of violent chaos.

The UIC’s victory brought a brief period of stability. During its reign citizens were able to travel and work without fear of extortion by the private militias.

In June 2006 the US designated Somalia a ‘terror state’ and accused the UIC of aiding Al Qaida.

This claim provided a pretext for Ethiopia – which is in dispute with its neighbour over control of the Ogaden region – to invade.

Since Ethiopian troops overran the capital earlier this year, a number of nationalist and clan-based resistance organisations have emerged – none are affiliated to Al Qaida.

The Washington-based Jamestown Foundation is a leading US authority on radical Islamist groups.

Its analysts found, ‘Resistance to Ethiopian troops and the Ethiopian-installed TFG is inspired by nationalism, religion, economic factors and clan loyalties – all of these motivations are part of a constantly shifting pattern of allegiances in which the only common characteristic is a desire to expel foreign troops from Somalia.’

In 1992 US and other Western troops invaded Somalia as part of a ‘humanitarian intervention’ during a famine. The occupation sparked an uprising that eventually drove out Western troops in 1994.

Now the US is desperately attempting to paint the Somalis as victims of an Al Qaida plot to take over their country.

The Shabelle media organisation, based in Somalia, reported that during recent ceasefire negotiations in Mogadishu, Ethiopian military officers wanted the representatives of the Hawiye, a major clan based in the capital, to admit that attacks on their troops were being carried out ‘by Al Qaida operatives’. The Hawiye rejected the allegation and stormed out of the talks.

The uprising in the capital started when troops attempted to take control of neighbourhoods that are particularly hostile to the occupation.

For nine days resistance fighters battled troops before being driven out by artillery barrages and tanks.

As the fighters melted away, men in ‘Somali army uniforms’ went on a looting spree, while occupation forces carried out mass arrests.

Abdulahi Irro, a father of four from Arafat neighborhood, told the Shabelle media organisation that government soldiers looted his house as he and his family stood by helplessly.

‘They attacked my house and took my car, television set and clothes, money and other things,’ he said.

Ibrahim Sheikh Mao, a resident of Mogadishu’s Suuqahoola district, told AFP news that troops ‘are moving from house-to-house arresting people.

‘They entered our house and arrested three people, including a woman.’ One reporter saw at least 20 men being bundled into a military truck.

The battle over Somalia is now threatening to engulf the whole region in war. The US undersecretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer, has accused Eritrea, another of Ethiopia’s neighbours, of supporting the rebels in Somalia.

The new threats against Eritrea come as US-backed Somali troops prepared to lay siege to the city of Kismayo, south of the capital.

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