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Islamists (Al-Shabaab) took over the airport last Tuesday, barring any aircraft from landing.
A-Shabaab, a group of young Islamists who are waging attacks against the interim government and the Ethiopian army stationed in Somalia, threatened to shoot down any aircraft landing there.
The group said the airport was serving the “occupying forces” such as the Ethiopian army and what they called Somalia’s apostasy government. Nearly 1,600 Ugandan troops and 800 Burundian troops are positioned as peacekeepers at the airport, the only international airport in the capital.
Clashes broke out after a plane carrying supplies for African Union peacekeepers defied the ban and landed in the airport, provoking mortar fire from the rebels. Government forces and their Ethiopian allies responded with machine-gun fire, mortars and missiles.
At least one nearby house was destroyed in the fighting. None of the peacekeepers on board were hurt. Meanwhile, Somalia’s civil aviation authority has warned airlines to stick to their normal schedules or risk losing their licenses.
Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991. Islamists briefly took over the capital and other areas in the center and south of the country for several months before they were ousted by Somali and Ethiopian armed forces in early 2007.
The Islamist rebels have since regrouped and are waging almost daily attacks on Somali forces, Ethiopian troops, foreign aid workers and local civilians. They wish to drive out the Ethiopian forces and topple the interim government. The airport closure is complicating the arrival of much-needed humanitarian aid to Somalia.
Most of the aid arrives by sea, which is an easier way to bring large quantities of supplies, but sea routes to Somalia have also become dangerous to use because of an increasing plague of piracy. Somali pirate (Al-Shabaab)s are holding a record 12 vessels off Somalia's waters as pirates search for opportunities to make profit from ransom money.
Dozens of sea vessels have been hijacked by Somali pirates (Al-Shabaab) since the beginning of the year.
Bill Warner..Ptivate Investigator