Reports from southern Somalia say that many people have fled villages
in the Lower Shabelle region following attacks by Ethiopian troops
and local Rahanwein militiamen.
agreed to withdraw its forces from Somalia late last year under
a deal with the Somali
warlord, Hussein Aideed, who expelled some Ethiopian Islamic rebels
from Somalia in return.
On Monday, the
villages of Da'arrey and Bulo Waboh were captured by the RRA, significantly
enlarging the area controlled by the movement.
The RRA has
adopted a new tactic of attacking before dawn without battle wagons.This
is probably to reduce the number of casualties, but three men were
killed in Da'arrey village after refusing to lay down their guns.
looting was reported during yesterday's attacks. Shops were ransacked
and merchants have accused Ethiopian forces of stealing their money
shopkeeper said the invaders were in fact RRA fighters wearing Ethiopian
army uniforms. A woman said she could clearly understand the Rahanwein
dialect as they spoke to each other.
commanders and court officials in Lower Shabelleh have been holding
a crisis meeting about the attacks.
One senior official
told a BBC correspondent that the Islamic courts will not tolerate
any kind of Ethiopian-led provocation in the region.
Ali Aden Qalinleh, a former RRA spokesman who is now governor of
the neighbouring Bay region, says his forces have the right to go
wherever they like in what he described as "Rahanwein territories",
which he said include the Lower Shabelleh region.
He denied that
Ethiopians were involved in the attacks. The renewed hostilities
in Lower Shabelleh are further weakening the already precarious
situation in famine-stricken Bakol region.
Roads are being
closed, meaning that precious food and supplies cannot reach the