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Somali government nears collapse despite U.S. backing

A Somali girl waits in a fenced-in holding area to be registered as a refugee. Camps along Kenya’s border are filling up as Somalis flee renewed violence expected to usher in a takeover by radical Islamists.

Washington Post

A Somali girl waits in a fenced-in holding area to be registered as a refugee. Camps along Kenya’s border are filling up as Somalis flee renewed violence expected to usher in a takeover by radical Islamists.

DADAAB, Kenya — By the time Mohamed Abdi Ibrahim decided to leave Somalia, life in the southern city of Kismaayo had become, as he put it with consummate understatement, "complicated."

Young men there had long shouldered AK-47 assault rifles and joined clan militias. But as an Islamist militia known as al-Shabab took control this year, it had become a place where boys were paid $50 to throw bombs, soccer fields served as militia training camps and Islamist leaders walked into classrooms to take names of potential recruits.

Ibrahim, 22, and two friends fled several months ago. The options for young men like them, it seemed, had narrowed to two: sign up or run.

The scenario now unfolding in Somalia is the one a U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion nearly two years ago had been intended to thwart: a takeover by radical Islamists. Ethiopian forces ousted a relatively diverse Islamic movement. They installed a transitional government headed by a warlord who allowed the U.S. to launch counterterrorism operations.

But the policy backfired, inspiring a relentless insurgency of clan militias and Islamist fighters that has left Somalia's first central government since 1991 near collapse.

On Sunday night, advisers and supporters of President Abdullahi Yusuf — who has been accused of obstructing a possible political compromise to help end the insurgency — said that he would resign today, although as with everything in Somalia, the situation remained fluid.

Somali government nears collapse despite U.S. backing 12/21/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 2:14pm]

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