The influential Islamic Courts, now controlling the capital and much of southern Somalia, seized a key central port on Wednesday, August 16, amid reports that more than 100 government troops had defected to their side in new blows to the weak interim administration.
"We have extended our reach to Hobyo," a senior Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) official told Agence France-Presse (AFP) of the town about 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Mogadishu.
"We did not capture it, but we reached the people of Hobyo to bring them our message of peace," he added on condition of anonymity.
"The courts were welcomed by the people of Hobyo. This is a great gift from the mighty Allah, we thank him," a second senior official said.
Telephone communication is impossible to Hobyo but residents reached by radio confirmed the Islamic Courts had entered the town after several days of talks with elders.
"The courts are now in control of Hobyo. They arrived this morning after staying overnight in nearby villages," resident Farah Dullane told AFP.
"Their presence is a reality in our town."
The move north follows the weekend seizure of the port of Haradere, further south, from where bands of pirates had been operating, attacking dozens of ships off the Somali coast in the past year.
The Islamic Courts has continued to gain more grounds since defeating the US-led warlord Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) and seizing Mogadishu on June.
Warlords had controlled the capital of the Horn of Africa country since the 1991 overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre.
Earlier Wednesday, Islamic Courts officials said around 100 government troops, along with seven battlewagons, crossed into their territory overnight from near the interim government seat of Baidoa.
"The militiamen communicated with Al-bayan Islamic court in Mogadishu and said they wanted to join our holy effort to bring peace to the Somali people," said court chairman Mohamed Ali Bilal.
"They are ideologically uncomfortable with the government and also claim to have been mistreated," he told AFP.
"I pray Allah will give his courage to the remaining soldiers in Baidoa to see the true realities of Somalia, I hope they will all join us," Bilal said.
Government officials in Baidoa, about 250 kilometers west of the capital, confirmed that a group of disgruntled soldiers had deserted but put their number at fewer than 50.
The defections come as tensions rise between the largely powerless government and the Islamic Courts.
Planned Arab League-mediated talks this week in Sudan to calm the situation were delayed again on Tuesday as the Islamic Courts renewed demands for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.
During a meeting in Khartoum brokered by the Arab League, the interim government and the Islamic Courts agreed to recognize each other and hold more talks.
Home to about 10 million largely impoverished people, Somalia has lacked almost all the trappings of a functional state, such as national systems of education, healthcare and justice, for the past 15 years.
Source: IslamonlineGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16