Shabaab gather, recruit at border town

2012-01-03 14:05
Nairobi - Militants from the insurgent group al-Shabaab appeared to be gathering hundreds of fighters and attempting to recruit even more in villages outside a Somalia border town invaded by Ethiopian troops over the weekend, residents said on Monday.

Hundreds of Ethiopian troops moved into the Somali town of Beledweyne on Saturday, opening a third front against al-Shabaab militants, who also face Kenyan troops in Somalia's south and African Union troops in the capital, Mogadishu.

Residents in Beledweyne said on Monday that they welcome the presence of Ethiopia's military because it has forced al-Shabaab militants out of the town. But a resident in a nearby village said that militants were amassing hundreds of fighters in forests outside Beledweyne. Bearded, masked men also tried to persuade locals in the town of Bulo Burte to join what they were calling "holy jihad," the resident said.

"We fear they will conscript our children because they are asking for more fighters," said Elmi Kheyre, a local elder. "They also visited Quranic schools and asked teachers to convince students to join al-Shabaab. We fear rampant conscription of children and elderly people."

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in 2006, spawning fierce resistance and the militant group that has become al-Shabaab. But residents on Monday said that so far they welcome the Ethiopians' presence. Harsh punishments — lashings, amputations and stonings — and strict social rules enforced by al-Shabaab has eroded the group's popularity.

"We really feel like we are in a new world after al-Shabaab left us," Ali Abdullahi, a resident in Beledweyne, said by phone. "People are free. There is no longer any oppression and fear. The oppressors have left."

Residents say cafes and other social sites are crowded with people talking about their lives under al-Shabaab’s rule.

Final game

"Now people are feeling ... that al-Shabaab are gone for good," said Sadiya Hussein, a mother of three.

"If Ethiopians joined the war, we felt it's the final game for al-Shabaab. We ask the Ethiopians to avoid killing our people like they did before."

Control of Beledweyne has lurched back and forth between al-Shabaab and Somali government fighters and militias. In previous years when Ethiopian troops entered people fled and businesses, schools and mosques closed. Residents said on Monday that Ethiopian troops were mingling with locals in cafes and at businesses, showing some sort of sense of trust.

"Previously we feared we will be harmed by Islamists if we do business with Ethiopians," said Nor Sheik, who has a small shop. "But we can now do business with them because the Islamists are no more and will never return," he said, perhaps overly confidently.

US-backed Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia in 2006 at the invitation of the weak, the UN-backed Somali government. But the incursion was seen by many Somalis as an unpopular invasion. Ethiopians pulled out in early 2009, and there are fears that a new push by Somalia could be a propaganda coup for al-Shabaab.

Ethiopia in November said it was considering whether to contribute troops to the African Union force in Somalia. Kenya's parliament recently voted for its forces to join the AU force. That move is awaiting approval by the United Nations.

The central Somalia town of Beledweyne is about 30km from the border with Ethiopia. A commercial hub, it lies on a key road that links Mogadishu with northern Somalia.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  somalia  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Habana believes in younger Boks
All Blacks ready for a 'hell of a battle'
Barnes to ref Boks, Wales clash
Brave Blossoms: 'Sport heroes of Japan'

Your incisive and innovative mind is on fire. You may be keen to explore new avenues that can help to inspire you. You more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.