The Islamist forces hastily collapsed on Wednesday afternoon when clan elders pulled their troops and firepower out of the movement after a string of back-to-back military losses in which more than 1,000 Islamist fighters, most of them adolescent boys, were killed by Ethiopian-backed forces.
“Our children were getting annihilated,” said Abdi Hulow, an elder with the powerful Hawiye clan. “We couldn’t sustain it.”
The Islamists started out as a grass-roots movement of clan elders and religious leaders who banded together earlier this year to rid Mogadishu of its notorious warlords, earning them a lot of public support.
But much of that good will seems to have been sapped by their decision to go to war against the transitional government and the Ethiopian forces protecting it.
The Islamists attacked Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government, on Dec. 20; a few days later, they announced that Somalia was open to Muslim fighters around the world who wanted to wage a holy war against Christian-led Ethiopia.
That provoked a crushing counter-attack by the Ethiopians, who command the strongest military in East Africa. For the past week, the Islamists have lost one battle after another, their adolescent soldiers no match for a professional army.
This is a good result. Hopefully Ethiopia maintains a credible force to prevent the SICC from establishing an insurgency.