News

    Somalia City a 'Disaster Zone' After Extremists Flee

    Flying to Baidoa in a vintage Ethiopian Airlines plane is an adventure in itself. The pilot negotiates a corkscrew landing to avoid possible mortar fire. The airport is heavily guarded.

    Much of colonial-era Baidoa is in ruins left from the war that toppled Somalia's last functioning government in 1991.

    A two-minute drive from the airport lies the bullet-scarred shell of Baidoa's colonial-era palace. The graffiti-covered walls, adorned with a black al-Shabab flag, testify to the extremists' recent presence, and their links to al-Qaida.

    Now, this once-splendid mansion is Ethiopia's command post.  General Yohannes Woldegiorigis says the compound was captured without a shot.

    "There was no resistance. They were displaced and ran away from the bases,” the general said.

    A statement from al-Shabab said the departure from Baidoa was a “tactical retreat” and it promised to return.

    As if to remind Baidoans of their power, the extremists left behind a few surprises.  Army Captain Mahamoud Yssak displays crude bombs and remote detonators found by advancing troops.

    "They use these things for mortars to shell.  This is a shelling point.  This is also a switch.  So this thing is improvised explosive device," Mahamous said.

    Ethiopia's last military push in Somalia ended badly in early 2009.  Al-Shabab successfully portrayed the Ethiopians as Christian invaders out to destroy Somalia's Islamic culture.  But now, Captain Mahamoud Yssak says after three years of harsh rule in which al-Shabab refused to allow food aid to reach Somali famine victims, Ethiopians are being welcomed back.

    "Al-Shabab, they did many wrong things to people. They [didn't] allow NGOs [aid groups] to come here. There is drought, there are no [aid groups] here. So this is why people hate al-Shabab," he said

    At a briefing for reporters, clan elders likened the damage inflicted by al-Shabab's rule to an earthquake.  Elder Maalim Ali Badheere said no aid organizations had arrived since al-Shabab's departure, and he appealed to the international community for urgent disaster relief.

    “A lot of people are dying. They are hungry and thirsty and in desperate need of international assistance," he said.

    Regional governor Abdifatah Mohammed Ibrahim says long-term military aid will also be needed to prevent al-Qaida-linked forces from making a comeback.

    As the governor showed reporters truck-mounted machine guns captured from fleeing Shabab fighters, he said the extremist threat could only be eliminated when their fighting force is destroyed.

    "You know the character of al-Shabab. They like to fight, hit-and-run. So I think they will be back.  They are [just] hiding here, under trees," the governor said.

    Ethiopian officials remember the unpleasant end to their last stay in Somalia. They have promised to leave Baidoa as soon as conditions are stable. But the extremists have not been defeated, they have only melted into the countryside. Stability appears to be a long way off.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora