War in Somalia (2006–present)

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Conflict and Peace

War in Somalia (2006–present)
Part of the Somali Civil War

Map of the inital Ethiopian advancements
Date December 20, 2006 – ongoing
Location Southern Somalia
Result Ongoing Conflict
  • Overthrow of ICU government in Mogadishu.
  • Transitional Federal Government establishes control over Mogadishu and southern Somalia
  • Ethiopian troops are deployed in southern Somalia
  • Emergence of Islamist insurgency by PRM
  • Inter-clan fighting resumes, so far, to a limited degree.
Image:Icu flag.svg Islamic Courts Union

Hizbul Shabaab
al-Itihaad al-Islamiya

Foreign Mujahideen
Flag of Eritrea Eritrea

Flag of Ethiopia Ethiopia

Flag of Somalia TFG
Flag of Somalia Galmudug

After the invasion:
Flag of the African Union AMISOM
Flag of the United States United States

Image:Icu flag.svg Hassan Aweys

Image:Icu flag.svg Sharif Ahmed
Hasan Hersi
Adan Ayrow

Flag of Somalia Abdikadir Adan Shire

Flag of Somalia Abdi Hasan Awale
Mohamud Muse Hersi
Flag of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi
Flag of the United States Patrick M. Walsh

8,000 ICU militants

Alleged forces:
3,000, 4,000 or 8,000 foreign militants
2,000 Eritreans

AMISOM: 1,600 (since March; goal of 8,000)
Casualties and losses
ICU KIA: 8,000
3,000+ wounded (December 26, 2006 Ethiopian claim)
TFG KIA: 300+
Ethiopian KIA: ~550
Ethiopian WIA: 500
Ugandan KIA: 6
Civilian casualties: ~6,500 dead , 8,516 injured
1.5 million displaced (in Mogadishu alone)

The War in Somalia is an ongoing armed conflict involving largely Ethiopian and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces versus the Islamist militant umbrella group, the Islamic Court Union (ICU), and other affiliated militias for control of the country. The war officially began on December 21, 2006, when the leader of the ICU, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, declared "Somalia is in a state of war, and all Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia". On December 24, Ethiopia stated it would actively combat the ICU.

Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, said Ethiopia entered hostilities because it faced a direct threat to its own borders. “Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation,” he said. “We are not trying to set up a government for Somalia, nor do we have an intention to meddle in Somalia's internal affairs. We have only been forced by the circumstances.”

While it is true the ICU made threats to carry the war into Ethiopia, the circumstances referred to were in part due to prior Ethiopian actions in response to historical conflicts in the region. Before proxy wars between Ethiopia and Eritrea began in the late 1990s, ICU was helping rebels inside Eastern Ethiopia against the Ethiopian government. Thus Ethiopia's involvement in Somalia had begun months before, with the intercession of forces to support the establishment of the transitional government, and to support other regional governments considered more acceptable to Ethiopia so that ICU won't be able to support more insurgents inside Eastern Ethiopia.

The ICU, which controlled the coastal areas of southern Somalia, engaged in fighting with the forces of the Somali TFG, and the autonomous regional governments of Puntland and Galmudug, all of whom were backed by Ethiopian troops. The outbreak of heavy fighting began on December 20 with the Battle of Baidoa, after the lapse of a one-week deadline the ICU imposed on Ethiopia (on December 12) to withdraw from the nation. Ethiopia, however, refused to abandon its positions around the TFG interim capital at Baidoa. On December 29, after several successful battles, TFG and Ethiopian troops entered Mogadishu relatively unopposed. The UN also stated that many Arab nations including Libya & Egypt were also supporting the ICU via Eritrea. Although not announced until later, a small number of U.S. special forces troops accompanied Ethiopian and TFG troops after the collapse and withdrawal of the ICU to give military advice and to track suspected al-Qaida fighters. Both American support for the TFG and various Arab Nations' support for the ICU were isolated cases from the central motive of the war between the allied Ethiopian & Somali government forces and the allied ICU & Eritrean forces.

The two sides had traded war declarations and gun fire on several occasions before. Eastern African countries and international observers fear the Ethiopian offensive may lead to a regional war, involving Eritrea, a long-time enemy of Ethiopia, who Ethiopia claims to be a supporter of the ICU.

Forces involved

The scope of forces involved are difficult to calculate because of many factors, including lack of formal organization or record-keeping, and claims which remained masked by disinformation. Ethiopia for months leading up to the war maintained it had only a few hundred advisors in the country. Yet independent reports indicated far more troops. According to the BBC, "The United Nations estimated that at least 8,000 Ethiopian troops may be in the country while the AP suggests the number closer to 12-15,000, while regional rival Eritrea has deployed some 2,000 troops in support of the Islamic group." Ethiopia only admitted to 3,000–4,000 being involved, though the ICU claimed the Ethiopians had 30,000 troops, while Eritrea denies having any troops in Somalia. In addition, the TFG alleged there were up to 8,000 foreign mujahideen fighting on behalf of the ICU, based on the ICU's worldwide appeal for Muslim mujahideen to come fight for their cause. Somali government troops and allied militias are estimated to be roughly 10,000.


Historic background

Wars between Somalia, or its precursor Islamic states, and Ethiopia, stretch back to 16th century. For example, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi was a 16th Century Islamic leader popular in Somali culture for his jihad against the Ethiopians during the rise of the Adal Sultanate. The painful living history, oral and cultural traditions, long-standing ethnic divisions and sectarian differences lay a foundation of conflict between the two nations.

More recently, boundary disputes over the Ogaden region date to the 1948 settlement when the land was granted to Ethiopia. Somali disgruntlement with this decision has led to repeated attempts to invade Ethiopia with the hopes of taking control of the Ogaden to create a Greater Somalia. This plan would have reunited the Somali people of the Ethiopian-controlled Ogaden with those living in the Republic of Somalia. These ethnic and political tensions have caused cross-border clashes over the years.

  • 1960–1964 Border Dispute
  • 1977–1978 Ogaden War
  • 1982 August Border Clash
  • 1998–2000 Cross-border warfare during the chaotic warlord-led era.

Diplomatic and humanitarian efforts

The war is being responded to by high-level diplomatic engagements, including the UN Security Council, the EU, Arab League, and African Union. Many humanitarian organizations are making appeals to stem the conflict before it causes catastrophic civilian suffering.

Information Warfare, Disinformation and Propaganda

Even before the beginning of the war there have been significant assertions and accusations of the use of disinformation and propaganda tactics by various parties to shape the causes and course of the conflict. This includes assertions of falsification of the presence or number of forces involved, exaggeration or minimization of the casualties inflicted or taken, influence or control of media outlets (or shutting them down), and other informational means and media to sway popular support and international opinion.



July–October 2006

Ethiopian troops moved into Somalian territory on July 20, 2006.

On August 1, 2006, the ICU sent technicals out towards the Ethiopian border north of Beledweyne. Ethiopian troops were reportedly sent across the border to stop the ICU's advance.

On October 9, it was reported Ethiopian troops seized Burhakaba. Another article seemed to indicate the Ethiopian control was a troop convoy passing through. Islamists claim the town reverted to their control after the Ethiopians departed. SomaliNet reports the elders asked the government to leave to avoid bloodshed in their town. The article said it was government troops, and not Ethiopians who had come to the town.

November - December 2006

An Ethiopian column of 80 vehicles was hit by landmines then attacked with gunfire by a group of about 50 troops loyal to the ICU on November 19, 2006 near Berdaale, 30 miles (50 km) west of Baidoa. Six Ethiopians were reported killed in the attack. Two Ethiopian trucks burned and two were overturned.

An exchange of mortar shells between Islamic Courts Union and Ethiopian forces occurred in Galkayo on November 28, 2006 with both Islamists and Ethiopian forces facing off. Ethiopian and Islamist forces in Galkayo, central Somalia, were less than 5 kilometers away from one another.

On November 30, an Ethiopian military convoy in Somalia was ambushed by fighters loyal to the Islamic Courts Union. Eyewitnesses said a truck was blown up and there was an exchange of fire. The ICU claim 20 soldiers died. Ethiopia's parliament voted the same day to authorize the government take "all necessary" steps to rebuff any potential invasion by Somalia's Islamists.

On December 8, 2006, fighters from Somalia's Islamic Courts Union clashed with Somalian government forces, allegedly in cooperation with Ethiopian troops. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, head of the Islamic Courts, told a crowd in Mogadishu that fighting had started in Dinsor in the south, and called on all Somalis to "stand up and defeat the enemies". Another official said Ethiopian troops had shelled the town of Bandiradley. The Deputy Defence Minister of the Somali government, Salat Ali Jelle, confirmed the fighting but denied any Ethiopian troops were involved. The Ethiopian government has denied repeated claims that its troops are fighting alongside Somali government militia.

Witnesses in Dagaari village near Bandiradley said that they saw hundreds of Ethiopian troops and tanks take up positions near the town with militiamen from the northeastern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

On December 9, fighters from Somalia's Islamic Courts and government soldiers clashed in a second day of fighting. The fighting occurred 40 kilometers from the interim government's headquarters in Baidoa. Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal, an Islamic Courts official, said that the government had launched a counterattack at Rama'addey village, while Ali Mohamed Gedi, the prime minister, claimed that Islamic Courts fighters had attacked government positions.

On December 13, a Reuters report said that the ICU claimed 30,000 Ethiopian troops were involved in Somalia, while 4,000 foreign fighters were involved on the side of the ICU. Ethiopia denied having troops other than "military advisors" present.

On December 20, major fighting broke out around the TFG capital of Baidoa. Thirteen trucks filled with Ethiopian reinforcements were reported en route to the fighting. Leaders of both groups briefly kept an option open for peace talks brokered by the EU.

On December 22, nearly 20 Ethiopian tanks headed toward the front line. According to government sources Ethiopia had 20 T-55 tanks and four attack helicopters in Baidoa.

On December 23, Ethiopian tanks and further reinforcements arrived in Daynuunay, 30 kilometres east of Baidoa; prompting ICU forces to vow all-out war despite a commitment to a EU-brokered peace. Heavy fighting continued in Lidale and Dinsoor.

On December 24, Ethiopia admitted its troops were fighting the Islamists, after stating earlier in the week it had only sent several hundred military advisors to Baidoa. Heavy fighting erupted in border areas, with reports of air strikes and shelling, including targets near the ICU-held town of Beledweyne. According to Ethiopian Information Minister Berhan Hailu: "The Ethiopian government has taken self-defensive measures and started counter-attacking the aggressive extremist forces of the Islamic Courts and foreign terrorist groups."

On December 25, Ethiopian and Somali forces coptured Beledweyne. Defending ICU forces fled Beledweyne concurrent to Ethiopian airstrikes against the Mogadishu and Bali-Dogle airports. Heavy fighting was also reported in Burhakaba.

On December 26, the ICU was in retreat on all fronts, losing much of the territory they gained in the months preceding the Ethiopian intervention. They reportedly fell back to Daynuunay and Mogadishu.

On December 27, Ethiopian and Somali government forces were en route to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu after capturing the strategic town of Jowhar, 90km north from the capital. The ICU were in control of little more than the coast, abandoning many towns without putting up a fight. Also, the UIC top two commanders, defense chief Yusuf Mohammed Siad Inda'ade and his deputy Abu Mansur were away on the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

After the Fall of Mogadishu to the Ethiopian and government forces on December 28, fighting continued in the Juba River valley, where the ICU retreated, establishing a new headquarters in the city of Kismayo. Intense fighting was reported on December 31 in the Battle of Jilib and the ICU frontlines collapsed during the night to artillery fire, causing the ICU to once again go into retreat, abandoning Kismayo, without a fight and retreating towards the Kenyan border.


Military events in 2007 focused on the southern section of Somalia, primarily the withdrawal of ICU forces from Kismayo, and their pursuit using Ethiopian air strikes in Afmadow district concurrent to the Battle of Ras Kamboni. During this battle, the U.S. launched an airstrike conducted by an AC-130 gunship against suspected Al-Qaeda operatives. A second airstrike was made after the battle later in January 2007.

Within a week of the TFG and Ethiopian army’s arrival in Mogadishu the first insurgent attacks began. Ethiopian and TFG forces responded by sealing off areas around the attack sites and conducting house-to-house searches. The TFG also passed a three-month emergency law in parliament and called for a disarmament of the militias on January 13, 2007. The provisions of the emergency law gave the TFG much wider powers and allowed President Yusuf to rule by decree.

Between January and March 2007 insurgent attacks took several forms: assassinations of government officials; attacks on military convoys; and rocket-propelled grenade or mortar attacks on police stations, TFG and Ethiopian military bases, or other locations or individuals deemed by the insurgency to be political or military targets. For instance, several hotels known to accommodate TFG officials, such as the Ambassador, Global, and Lafweyne Hotels, were repeatedly hit with RPGs and mortar rounds and were the site of attempted assassinations of TFG officials.

The insurgency was mobile, often using hit-and-run tactics in its attacks or setting up and launching mortar rounds within minutes, then melting back into the civilian population. After an insurgent attack on a convoy or other mobile target, Ethiopian and TFG forces typically sealed off the area and conducted house-to-house searches of the area. The Ethiopian and TFG response to mortar attacks increasingly included the return firing of mortars and rockets in the direction of origin of insurgency fire. In the beginning of March, the first 1,500 African Union Mission to Somalia soldiers begun arriving in Somalia.

By the end of March, the fighting intensified in Mogadishu and more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, were killed. Hawiye clan militiamen allied with the Islamists clashed with TFG and Ethiopian troops.

Situation in Somalia in December 2007
Situation in Somalia in December 2007

After the end of that battle in April in which heavy weapons were used and turned parts of Mogadishu into ashes, the allied forces of Somalia and Ethiopia were said to have won over the local insurgents. Since May 2007 it has been increasingly apparent that the March and April fighting did not stem the insurgency. The insurgents started a low level but very effective violence campaign including suicide bombings, hit and run missions and hunting high-profile government officials.

In December 2007, the Ethiopian troops withdrew from the town of Guriel, and the Islamists controlled Guriel after that. Ethiopia had a big military base there to secure the road linking the two countries.



Casualties and displacement

In December 2007, The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation said it had verified 6,500 deaths, 8,516 people wounded, and 1.5 million displaced from homes in Mogadishu alone during the year 2007.

War crimes

Based on dozens of eyewitness accounts gathered by Human Rights Watch in a six-week research mission to Kenya and Somalia in April and May 2007, plus subsequent interviews and research in June and July, report was released by the HRW that documents the illegal means and methods of warfare allegedly used by all of the warring parties and the resulting catastrophic toll on civilians in Mogadishu. In South Mogadishu, dead bodies of women, children and elders as well as animals are scattered on the district's streets and there are no civilians living in Southern Mogadishu as they have moved to Afgoie. Ethiopians soldiers loot shops including the Bakara market in South Mogadishu.

Repression of press freedom

In November 2007, the federal government and Ethiopian troops began a crackdown on political opposition. The Shabelle Radio station was shut down.

Suicide bombings

The presence of islamist fighters in Somalia opened a completely new aspect to the Somali Civil War: suicide attacks. Here is a list of reported attacks:

  • In late 2006, two suicide bombings were reported in Baidoa where the government was stationed at the time.
  • In the beginning of April 2007, Al-Jazeera TV aired a Somali man who was speaking in Arabic and reciting Koranic verses. Then they showed an SUV full what appeared to be explosives driving toward an Ethiopian compound followed by a large explosion.
  • The insurgents adapted Middle East style suicide bombings. At least one person blew himself up on April 19, 2007 near an Ethiopian military compound. A bystander said at least two Ethiopian vehicles entering the compound were destroyed to small pieces.
  • On April 24, a suicide bomber attacked an Ethiopian forces compound in Afgoye town, 30km south of Mogadishu. There were no casualty reports.
  • On April 25, 11 people were killed in a suicide attack on a major hotel around KM4 roundabout, south of Mogadishu where the Somali government officials are based.
  • On June 3, a truck bomb exploded outside the residence of the Somali interim prime minister, Ali Mohamed Ghedi. At least six people were killed and 10 injured - most of them bodyguards.
  • On October 11, 2007, Two Ethiopian soldiers were killed by a car bomb in the Somali town of Baidoa. The bomber's target was an Ethiopian military post close to the hotel where the prime minister, Ali Mohamed Ghedi, was staying.


Having secured the southern and central area of Somalia in mid January 2007, the Transitional Federal Government is faced with the issue of whether, and how, to unify the entirety of Somalia as it existed in 1991. Since that year, Somaliland has been operating as a de facto independent nation, though unrecognized internationally. According to the Transitional Federal Charter, the Somali Republic includes the area of Somaliland in the definition of its sovereign territory.

There are various political forces involved. Ethiopia depends on Somaliland to provide port facilities since the loss of the coast with Eritrea, and generally supports the idea of Somaliland independence, while Eritrea supports Somaliland being reabsorbed into Somalia to make a larger nation to counter Ethiopia's dominance on the region. As well, eastern Somaliland is disputed with Puntland because of clan ties..

On January 11, Somaliland and Ethiopia held talks regarding further economic ties.

On January 14, 2007, leaders of Somaliland's three main political parties, the UDUB, Kulmiye, and UCID, held a press conference warning of regional war if Somalia tried to reabsorb Somaliland. On January 16, tens of thousands protested in Hargeisa against the prospect of reunification, burning Somalian flags. The next day, January 17, thousands demonstrated in favour of joining the TFG took place in the Sool and Sanag regions of Somaliland.


The Ethiopian Army is equipped with predominantly Soviet-made weapons while TFG and Islamic weapons vary, having mostly small arms. The following table should not be considered exhaustive.

Type Ethiopian Army TFG Islamists
Tanks T-55, T-62, T-72 none none
APC's/IFV's BTR-40, M113, BTR-60 technicals technicals
Artillery 2A18, M1937 Howitzer, BM-21, 120mm mortars 120mm mortars 120mm mortars
Aircraft MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-27 none none
Helicopters Mi-6, Mi-8, Mi-24 none none
Small Arms, Light Weapons AK-47, Heckler & Koch G3, PKM, DShK, ZU-23, RPG-2, RPG-7 AK-47, Heckler & Koch G3, PKM, DShK, ZU-23, RPG-2, RPG-7 AK-47, DShK, Browning M2, ZU-23, M79, RPG-7

Key people


An August 24, 2006 article in the Sudan Tribune identified several warlords involved with TFG military units:

  • Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed – TFG president, former leader of the SSDF.
  • Mohamed Omar Habeeb (Mohamed Dheere) – controlled Jowhar region with the help of Ethiopia; after losing in Mogadishu as part of the ARPCT, regrouped his militia in Ethiopia and since returned (see Battle of Jowhar).
  • Muuse Suudi Yalahow – Controlled Medina District in Mogadishu but was forced to flee by the ICU. Has since returned to the city.
  • Hussein Mohamed Farrah – son of late General Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Although his father was a key anti-U.N. force in the mid-1990s, Farrah is a naturalized U.S. citizen and former U.S. Marine who controlled Villa Somalia. Former leader of the SRRC militia. The Sudan Tribune says Farrah is in the patronage of Ethiopia, and Western interests see him as their best hope to improve Somali-Western relations.
  • Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdiid – former finance minister under Gen. Aidid; arrested in Sweden for warcrimes, but later released due to lack of evidence.
  • Colonel Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud – affiliated with the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA). Came to power after his militia (with the help of Ethiopian paramilitary forces) drove out Aidid's militia from Baidoa, which became the seat of the transitional government. Currently TFG Minister of Finance.
  • Mohamed Qanyare Afrah – former Security Minister and member of ARPCT
  • Barre Aadan Shire "Hiiraale" – leader of the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA); controls Kismayo (and until its loss to the ICU, Marka region).
  • Hassan Abdullah Qalaad


  • Sharif Ahmed, head of the ICU executive committee
  • Hassan Dahir Aweys, head of the ICU shura council, former Somali colonel, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist for heading Osama bin Laden-supported Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya in the 1990s.
  • Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki, led forces which captured Juba Valley, on U.S. terrorist list for taking over the leadership of Aweys' group
  • Abu Taha al-Sudan, reported to have led the ICU troops in the Battle of Baidoa, former Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, wanted by the U.S. as the financier of the 1998 United States embassy bombings and involvement in the 2002 Mombasa hotel bombing
  • Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, listed as a terrorist by the U.S. for reported involvement in the 2002 Mombasa hotel bombing, said to have been a target of the U.S. AC-130 raid in January 2007
  • Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, listed as a terrorist by the U.S. for reported involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Some sources claim that he was a target of the U.S. AC-130 raid. His death by the AC-130 raid was later reported by Somali authorities, but denied by US officials.
  • Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow", led commandos of the ICU's Hizbul Shabaab movement against Ethiopian-backed forces in the Battle of Baidoa, before fleeing and being targeted by the U.S. AC-130 raid that killed eight people on January 8, 2007. Was named Al-Qaeda's leader in Somalia in March, 2007.

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