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Horn of Africa : War and Jihad imminent


November 15, 2006

The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) is a union of militias linked to Mogadishu ‘s various clan-based Islamic courts. After capturing Mogadishu on 4 June 2006, the ICU set up a ‘parliament’ – the Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC) – and enacted sharia law in the city. The ICU has since advanced militarily, making territorial gains across southern Somalia .

The conflict inside Somalia threatens to erupt into regional war. It is all about power: geopolitical (regional power – the quest for a unified and Greater Somalia ), clan dominance (clan power – the ICU is dominated by Hawiya), political ideology (totalitarian political power through Islamism) and religion (religious power through Islamic domination and Sharia).

The head of the SICC is Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys. He is a veteran of Somalia ‘s 1976-78 Ogaden War in which the Somali Army failed to capture eastern Ethiopian territory. He then became the leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate ‘al-Ittihad al-Islami’ (AIAI), a terrorist group that perpetrated terror attacks against Ethiopia in the mid-1990s, including bombings in the capital Addis Ababa . AIAI sought the creation of an Islamic Caliphate over a Greater Somalia made up of all lands inhabited by ethnic Somalis: Djibouti (French Somalia), Somaliland (British Somalia, an unrecognised independent liberal democracy), Puntland (autonomous) and southern Somalia (both Italian Somalia but dominated by different clans), eastern Ethiopia (Ogaden, home to four million ethnic Somalis) and north-eastern Kenya. Whilst the Ethiopian armed forces crushed AIAI, the ideology has re-emerged in the ICU under the leadership of ‘Aweys.

The ICU is receiving support from Eritrea , Djibouti , Egypt , Iran , Lebanon , Libya , Saudi Arabia and Syria as well as ethnic Somalis Islamists across the region and foreign jihadis from the Arab world, Pakistan , Hezballah and more. (Support is also coming from some Somali nationalists and Ethiopian opposition groups who don’t realise that the Islamists are not really their friends.) On the other hand the UN-recognised Transitional Federal Government, Ethiopia , Somaliland and Puntland oppose the ICU agenda, and Uganda has offered ‘peacekeeping’ assistance.

The ICU does not have the military capacity to seriously challenge the Ethiopian Army. It will therefore rely on terrorism and it will direct attacks at soft targets. This will doubtless include churches and Christians, as well as Christian missions and ministries all across the Horn of Africa. The US embassy in Nairobi has issued a warning that the Islamists may be preparing to launch suicide attacks in Ethiopia and Kenya . As Islamic zeal and belligerence rise, grassroots persecution and killings of Christians in Muslim-dominated areas is increasing. Whilst Ethiopia will be able to defend itself, it will not occupy Somalia . The situation for Somali Christians will remain perilous until the ICU is replaced by an authority that treasures life, peace and liberty.