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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora