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Somali Islamists Threaten Attack on Government Base


Islamist forces in Somalia are threatening to attack Baidoa, base of the country's weak interim government.

A top official from Somalia's Islamic Courts Union, Hassan Turki, told a Somali radio station that fighters loyal to the courts plan to attack Baidoa in the coming days.

Witnesses in Baidoa Wednesday say government forces are preparing for the attack. Islamist militias are reported to be as close as 12 kilometers from the town.

The Somali government has the support of neighboring Ethiopia, though it is not clear how many Ethiopian soldiers are in Baidoa.

In an interview with Reuters news agency Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi acknowleged sending a few hundred military trainers into Somalia to help the interim government.

Witness reports put the number of Ethiopian troops in Somalia much higher, in the thousands.

The Islamists recently declared a jihad, or holy war on Ethiopia, and have called on Ethiopians to rise up and remove Mr. Meles from power.

The Islamic courts official, Turki, told the radio station Wednesday that the courts aim to implement Islamic rule throughout Somalia. He said the Islamists intend to gain control of the semi-autonomous Puntland region and the breakaway republic of Somaliland.

Islamist militias currently control much of southern Somalia, including the country's capital, Mogadishu. The government has virtually no power outside its base in Baidoa.

Somalia has lacked an effective central government since warlords overthrew the last president in 1991.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.