One heck of a way to get ready for Christmas. That ancient Christian nation of Ethiopia is going to war where the West dares not to treat - Islamists Somalia.
Ethiopia sent fighter jets into Somalia and bombed several towns Sunday in a dramatic attack on Somalia's powerful Islamic movement, and Ethiopia's prime minister said his country had been "forced to enter a war."This has the potential to widen into a regional war.
It was the first time Ethiopia acknowledged its troops were fighting in support of Somalia's U.N.-backed interim government even though witnesses had been reporting their presence for weeks in an escalating battle that threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa region.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi went on television to announce that his country was at war with the Islamic movement that wants to rule neighboring Somalia by the Quran.
"Our defense force has been forced to enter a war to defend (against) the attacks from extremists and anti-Ethiopian forces and to protect the sovereignty of the land," Meles said a few hours after his military attacked the Islamic militia with fighter jets and artillery.
No reliable casualty reports were immediately available.
Ethiopia, a largely Christian nation, supports Somalia's interim government, which has been losing ground to the Council of Islamic Courts for months.
Eritrea, a bitter rival of Ethiopia, is backing the Islamic militia, and experts fear the conflict could draw in the volatile Horn of Africa region, which lies close to the Saudi Arabian peninsula and has seen a rise in Islamic extremism. A recent U.N. report said 10 nations have been illegally supplying arms and equipment to both sides in Somalia.There is some more detail from the Australian press here.
People living along Somalia's coast have reported seeing hundreds of foreign Muslims entering the country in answer to calls from the Islamic militia to fight a holy war against Ethiopia.
Sunday saw the first use of airstrikes and Ethiopia's first public admission of its military involvement in Somalia, where the government is surrounded by fighters of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) backed by mortars and machineguns.I will say this about the Somali women: I wish we could get the American version outside Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princton and Stanford.
Earlier, Ethiopian Information Minister Berhan Hailu said the operation targeted several fronts including Dinsoor, Bandiradley and Baladwayne and the town of Buur Hakaba - close to the administration's encircled south-central base Baidoa.
Somalia's ambassador to Ethiopia Abdikarin Farah said government forces had killed 500 Islamist troops, most of them Eritreans, in two days of heavy fighting, but there was no independent confirmation of the death toll.
The Islamists say they have killed hundreds of pro-government troops, but aid agencies put the total number of dead at dozens.
Further north in Mogadishu, women and children gathered in a market to badger men walking along the streets to join the war.Yep. They know war. Somalia and Ethiopia have been at each other's throat before. Good report here. If you need a primer on the Ethiopian Air Force, this and this are good starts. Make sure and read the last couple of weeks or so over at EagleSpeak for more background on what is going on over at the HOA.
"They told me to wear their clothes if I will not go to war," said Abdi Rashid. "They said I'm not a man, because all men are on the frontline, so I should wear women's clothes."