Somalia violence flares in the wake of U.S. airstrike

Mogadishu's recent outbreak of violence appeared linked to a May airstrike that killed Hashi Aden Ayro, a Somali Islamist leader who the US says has links to Al Qaeda.

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Somalia was racked by violence Tuesday, as suspected Islamist insurgents killed government soldiers and seized territories throughout the capital, Mogadishu, in a backlash against a US missile strike earlier this month that killed a leader who the US says had links to Al Qaeda. Further highlighting the deteriorating law-and-order situation, two foreign aid workers were kidnapped at gunpoint from the capital.

The incidents came just a week after peace talks sponsored by the United Nations failed to produce an agreement between Islamist forces and the Somalian government.

Agence France-Press reports that at least 10 people were killed in violence yesterday.

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Islamic extremist insurgent attacks killed at least 10 people Tuesday in and around the Somali capital Mogadishu, witnesses and officials told AFP.
Three government soldiers and two civilians died when insurgents armed with machine guns and rockets ambushed a checkpoint manned by Somali soldiers around 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Mogadishu…
In a separate incident, a joint Somali and Ethiopian patrol was struck by a roadside bomb blast near a former military academy in southern Mogadishu.

Violence has been growing in Somalia since 2006, when neighboring Ethiopia, with support from Washington, launched a military operation inside Somalia to oust an Islamist movement that had seized control of the capital and other cities, Voice of America reports.

Islamist insurgents launch almost-daily attacks on Somali government forces and allied Ethiopian troops. More than a year of fighting has killed thousands of Somalis and displaced hundreds of thousands more, mostly from Mogadishu.

The Islamists are trying to create a fundamentalist state, and there is barely any educated class to work against them, writes Mark Bowden, author of "Black Hawk Down," in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

[The] Islamist radicals ... care about society as a whole, but only insofar as they can shape it to their own zealous ends. They impose their harsh interpretation of sharia, or Muslim law...
One of the things Somalia lacks is a capable, homegrown movement of educated, determined nationalists capable of fending off the religious radicals, disarming and controlling the warlords, and standing up for the interests of people who just want a stable, civil society.

Time magazine reported that the US has bombed Somalia five times since the Ethiopian army launched its operation in 2006.

The U.S. missile strike that killed Somalia's most notorious Islamist insurgent, Aden Hashi Ayro, has dealt a major blow to al-Qaeda's allies operating in East Africa
Ayro had been trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, where he later fought alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance and the U.S. before returning to Somalia in 2003 to join — and quickly come to lead — a group of Somali and foreign radical militants that had been established by Osama bin Laden in remote swamps in the southeast of the country. It was this group that Washington blames for the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and for the 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya, as well as several other attempted atrocities.

While the US airstrike in May appeared to have been the first to take out a key target, many had questioned its impact, reported The Christian Science Monitor. The Associated Press reports that the increasing violence this month appears to be a backlash against that missile strike on Somalia's highest level Al Qaeda leader in May.

Earlier this month, the insurgents vowed to avenge the May 1 death of Hashi Aden Ayro, the leader of the Islamic al-Shabab militia, who was killed in a U.S. missile strike at his home in central Somalia.

Somalia has long been a focal point of US military intervention, particularly during the 1990s, when a failed attempt to capture a Mogadishu warlord resulted in the "Black Hawk Down" debacle, in which 18 US soldiers were killed by Somalian militias, reported Time magazine.

More recently, however, the focus has been on terrorism, and particularly on Ayro as he rose up the chain of command in Al Qaeda's East African operations.

Adding to the sense of unrest, two Italian aid workers were taken at gunpoint Tuesday. Islamists had earlier vowed to kidnap foreigners in retaliation for Ayro's death, the Associated Press reports.

The uptick in violence comes just days after failed peace talks in Djibouti, where the UN attempted unsuccessfully to broker an agreement between the government and the Islamist forces that were ousted by Ethopia's military, the BBC reports.

Peace talks on Somalia have broken up without any face-to-face discussions between the government and the main opposition alliance.
After four days meeting UN diplomats in Djibouti, the two sides agreed to attend further talks in two weeks time.
...the peace talks [were held] between the government and the Asmara-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, which includes leaders of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).
The UIC ruled much of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian forces backed by Somali government troops, who have been struggling to exert their control over the country ever since.
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