Somalia clashes leave 30 dead

January 12th, 2009 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi/Mogadishu, Jan 12 (DPA) Clashes between Somali Islamists competing to seize areas abandoned by departing Ethiopian troops left around 30 people dead and 30 injured over the weekend, reports said Monday.Main insurgent group al-Shabaab and a local militia group clashed in Guriel, some 500 km north of the capital Mogadishu, the BBC reported.

Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia in late 2006 to help kick out the hardline Islamic Courts Union (ICU) regime.

After two years of battling a bloody insurgency and watching the government it backed fall apart, Ethiopia is now in the process of pulling out.

Only ramshackle government forces and an undermanned African Union (AU) force of around 3,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi will stand between insurgent groups and complete control of Somalia once Ethiopia leaves.

The AU is desperately trying to scrape up more troops to keep al-Shabaab at bay but the UN has ruled out sending in a peacekeeping force.

Analysts fear that the Ethiopian departure could worsen the conflict as rival insurgent groups struggle to seize control.

There is, however, some optimism that the recent resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Ethiopia’s departure could give fresh impetus to an ongoing UN-backed peace process and help create a government of national unity.

The fear for many Western governments is that al-Shabaab will emerge triumphant from any power struggle and seize complete control of Somalia.

The US says that al-Shabaab has close links to Al Qaeda. However, little hard evidence has emerged to prove this.

Somalia has been embroiled in chaos ever since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The crisis deepened after the Ethiopian invasion sparked a bloody insurgency that has killed over 10,000 civilians and displaced around one million Somalis.

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