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ICC NOTE: The Islamists declared holy war against Addis Ababa this month after they said Ethiopian soldiers had helped the government briefly seize a southern town. The Horn of Africa could all be pulled into a conflict where radical Islamic groups are pushing West toward the border of Ethiopia and Kenya. Many Christians live in this area and will be affected.

Somalis rally for jihad against Ethiopia

27 Oct 2006


MOGADISHU , Oct 27 (Reuters) – Thousands of Somalis took to the streets of Mogadishu on Friday to back the ruling Islamists in a holy war they have declared against Ethiopian troops they accuse of invading their country to protect the government.

Surging through Tarbuunka Square, Somalis shouted their support for the Islamists’ call to defend the nation, and dozens registered with the movement to fight for their cause.

The Islamists control Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia and are challenging the authority of its shaky Western-backed government, now essentially confined to the city of Baidoa .

The Islamists have also been quick to exploit traditional Somali hatred for Ethiopia , which has not hesitated to send troops across the border in the past.

“I will die for my country and religion,” Amran Adan, a mother of five said. “I will take the enemy out of my country.”

Groups encircled Islamists who took down personal details.

“I’ve registered and will defend my country against Ethiopia ,” 18-year-old Hussein Farah said. “My parents are happy that I am going for jihad.”

The Islamists declared holy war against Addis Ababa this month after they said Ethiopian soldiers had helped the government briefly seize a southern town.

They later said the jihad was only a means of defending themselves against Ethiopians inside Somalia . Somalis have traditionally resisted outside influence and view Ethiopia as a Christian imperialist power.

Addis Ababa denies any incursion, although it says it has sent several hundred armed military trainers to help the interim Somali government.

Telling the Mogadishu crowd they needed to register, Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed also urged Somalis to hand in their weapons.

“Whether it is a pistol, arrow, or stones, we will accept them,” he said. “We have to defend our country. We call upon all Somalis wherever they might be to take part in this jihad.”

The Islamists on Thursday stopped three lawmakers from reaching the government’s base in Baidoa, in a another move that appeared to isolate the fractious government of President Abdullahi Yusuf — the 14th attempt at central rule since 1991.

The Islamists, who said they were protecting the lawmakers from Ethiopian soldiers, effectively flank the administration on three sides and have stopped fuel shipments reaching Baidoa.

Both sides are due to meet in Sudan ‘s capital Khartoum next week for a third round of peace talks. Earlier rounds have produced little other than a promise to recognise each other and not to make any military moves.

Both accuse the other of violating the deal. However at the last talks in September, they agreed in principle to create joint military forces.