2006 Timeline of The War in Somalia - Timeline - Second Front in Mudug and Hiran - December, 2006

December, 2006

On December 22, 2006 Ethiopian troops were said to be amassing in Galkayo for what might turn into a second front of the war near Puntland.

On December 23, 2006, 500 Ethiopian troops and 8 tanks were reported to be heading towards Bandiradley.

On December 24, 2006, Ethiopia admitted its troops are fighting the Islamists. Ethiopian warplanes bombed ICU targets in Jawil and Kala-Bayrka 30 km south of Beledweyne in the Hiran region (190 miles, 300 km north of Mogadishu) and also struck Bandiradley, in Mudug (435 miles, 700 km north of Mogadishu). According to one witness: "We see planes striking us and heavy fighting on the ground intensifying."

Twelve men, identified as Ethiopian prisoners of war, were reported taken in Beledweyne. Eight Ethiopian aircraft were reported to have struck Beledweyne and its residential areas, causing protests in the streets. Ethiopian tanks cut the main Kala-Bayrka road, isolating the town.

Abdulahi Mire Areys, commander of forces for the semi-autonomous government of Puntland in Bandiradley say they were attacked by the ICU, including mortar fire.

ICU commander Mohamud Mohamed Jimale ("Aga-Weyne", "Big Feet") said Ethiopians had attacked Bandiradley and the Saddeh-Higlo region of Mudug.

Ethiopian forces, accompanied by the militia of warlord Abdi Qeybdid and the forces of Puntland occupied the ICU barracks of Bandiradley. (Abdi Qeybdid was the last warlord ousted from Mogadishu in July, 2006.) ICU spokesman Sheik Mohamood Jimale Agoweyne, stated Ethiopian aircraft were basing out of Galkayo airport.

On December 25, ICU officer Sheik Abdiqani Qorane Mohammed claimed Islamist forces killed an unspecified number of Ethiopian troops and downed an Ethiopian helicopter gunship at Bandiradley, while spokesman Sheik Asbdrahman Jiunikow admitted the ICU had retreated from Beledweyne, leaving it to advancing Ethiopian forces after a day of battle. Fighting was also said to be near Jawil in Hiran.

Fighting had advanced in the north, between Bandiradley in Mudug and Galinsor just inside the border of Adado district, Galgadud. Late in the day, Ethiopian troops had advanced from Galinsor and taken Adado, Galgadud, after the ICU abandoned the town following fierce fighting.

In Hiran, Ethiopian forces were reported to have taken both Beledweyne and Buuloburde, with unconfirmed reports that "hundreds of Ethiopian tanks" were moving along the road towards Jowhar. This presents a threat of a major flanking of ICU positions in Tiyoglow and Burhakaba by striking towards the Shabeellaha Dhexe area. The Ethiopian forces were accompanied by Somali warlord Mohamed Omar Habeb 'Mohamed Dhere,' who wished to reestablish his control over Jowhar. The returning ex-Governor of Hiran, Yusuf Dagabed, proclaimed that the town of Beledweyne was liberated and it was again legal to chew khat.

The loss of Adado meant that it became the third to fall to the advancing Ethiopian forces, after Bandiradley and Beledweyne. This has left the ICU vulnerable, with Jowhar their furthermost stronghold (90 kilometres north-east of Mogadishu) after losing vast amounts of territory as quickly as they had gained several months ago. Unconfirmed reports now say that this is due to a change in strategy by the ICU so as to employ guerilla warfare against the more technologically advanced Ethiopian military. The leader of the Council of Islamic Courts executive body appeared to confirm this: "The war is entering a new phase… we will fight Ethiopia for a long, long time and we expect the war to go everyplace." Other Islamic leaders did explicitly threaten guerilla war within Ethiopia, by placing Addis Ababa as a target for suicide bombings. In response to this, the Ethiopian-backed TFG announced an amnesty to any ICU fighter who renounced violence by giving up arms. "The government will not take revenge," a government spokesman was reported to have said.

On December 26, it became known that ICU forces completely left Mudug, Galgadud, Hiran, Bay and Bakool provinces, clinging to Shabeellaha Dhexe province. Ethiopian forces were predicted to take this in the coming days. This amounted to a ninety per cent loss of territory of what the ICU once had before the Ethiopian intervention. The Islamic courts claimed that they would adopt the Taliban-style guerilla warfare that has been used in Afghanistan.

Read more about this topic:  2006 Timeline Of The War In Somalia, Timeline, Second Front in Mudug and Hiran