Somali Islamists said they had taken control of Baidoa, the seat of the country's parliament, after Ethiopian troops pulled out at the weekend. Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, the spokesman of the Shebab, said: "The town is completely in our hands.
AFP - Hardline Somali Islamists on Monday said they had taken control of Baidoa, the seat of the country's parliament, after Ethiopian troops pulled out at the weekend.
Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, the spokesman of the Shebab, a military youth wing of an Islamist movement ousted by Ethiopian forces forces in early 2007, said the south-central town was now under their control.
"The town is completely in our hands. We have taken control of Baidoa today," Robow told AFP. "There are a few militia who are firing at us in the town, but we are going to crack down on them."
Robow said earlier Monday that they were closing in on Baidoa, located some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu and which was the last town to be vacated by the Ethiopian troops.
Baidoa residents said they saw Shebab fighters in the town and heard exchanges of gunfire.
"I have seen a lot of the Islamists' vehicles. They have entered the town... We have heard gunshots in the presidential palace area," said resident Ali Abdullahi Hassan.
"I have seen Sheikh Mukhtar Robow on board a pick-up truck inside the town. He had a lot of heavily-armed militia with him," local elder Hussein Moalim Nur said.
The Shebab had relentlessly fought the Ethiopian toops who rolled into Somalia to support a weak transitional government against the Islamist movement in late 2006.
Ethiopia announced on Sunday that it had completed its pullout from Somalia and hailed the intervetion as a success.
The Baidoa attack came as the government met with the moderate Islamist-dominated opposition group Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) in Djibouti and agreed to double the 275 parliamentary seats to accommodate the ARS.
But harldine Islamists have rejected the UN-sponsored talks in Djibouti and despite pegging their participation in the talks on Ethiopia's withdrawal, they have continued with the insurgency.
The top United Nations envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, said the Baidoa attack would have no impact on the Djibouti negotiations.
"If the fall of Baidoa is proven, it would not jeopardise the current negotiations or the election of a new president," Oul-Abdallah said in Djibouti where more than 1,000 Somali politicians are gathered to elect a new president.
After being sworn in, the lamakers are expected to elect a new president after the post fell vacant last month with the resignation of Abdullhai Yusuf Ahmed.
The new president is to take oath of office on January 31, the UN office for Somalia said in statement Monday.
The departure of the the Ethiopian forces sparked security fears in the war-ravaged country that is also beset by a leadership crisis.
On Monday, the African Union warned that the extremist Islamists militia were plotting more sucide attacks after a car bomb killed 22 civilians in Mogadishu.
The AU forces -- comprising Ugandan and Burundian contingents -- have also been targeted by the insurgents and have lost nine soldiers since Ugandan forces first deployed in March 2007.
The Horn of Africa country has lacked an effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre sparked internecine violence.
Date created : 2009-01-26