An Islamic fundamentalist militia has seized Somalia's capital Mogadishu after weeks of bloody fighting with secular warlords. The takeover has prompted unification within the city for the first time in more than a decade. It also poses a direct challenge to a fledgling UN-backed Somali government, currently seated in Baidoa, 250 kilometers from Mogadishu. The Director of Africa Programs at the International Crisis Group in New York, Suleiman Baldo, gave his analysis of the Islamic militia’s takeover to Voice of America English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje.
Baldo explained the significance of the takeover. “It’s a very significant event for several considerations. First, it signifies an emergence of a new political force, which is not based on clan politics. Therefore this is an important development, an upheaval in Somali life and it happened at lightening speed. Second this event shows that the strategy of the US in counter-terrorism in the region has failed. It has relied on fighting international terrorism by proxy and its allies on the ground have been defeated. The ones they are supposed to undermine and weaken are now the ones who are in control of Mogadishu.”
The director discussed the role of the United States in the region. “The US indeed haven’t confirmed or denied assisting the Warlords Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. We know that there have been such claims including from the president of the transitional government in Somalia, including members of the alliance, if not the alliance per-say. And some members of the alliance who showed independent investigators like ourselves some evidence of such collaboration going on.”
The United States has not officially admitted supporting the Anti-Terrorism Alliance. And in a recent VOA interview, a spokesman for the Alliance denied receiving any form of support from the United States.
Baldo says the speed of the Islamist militia’s victory puts its Supreme Council in a complex position and that the militia leaders “will need to take time to assess and see how things progress, demonstrating that they have no ties to international terrorists.”
Baldo says the defeat of the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism does not upset the transitional government. But he adds the government also feels a sense of unease at the sudden emergence of authority in Mogadishu.
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