There are growing fears that war could engulf the Horn of Africa after an escalation in the conflict in Somalia. Tension has mounted after Ethiopian warplanes attacked two Islamist-held Somali airfields – one of them, the international airport in the capital, Mogadishu. Damage was limited but the move is of symbolic significance.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has declared his country is “at war” with the Islamists who hold most of southern Somalia, saying Ethiopia is defending its sovereignty against a movement run by “terrorists”.
Somalia is split between those who back the Islamist Union of Islamic Courts, whose power base includes the capital, and supporters of a weak interim Somali government, which Ethiopia has pledged to protect.
Amid the fighting, aid agencies are concerned there will be a fresh influx of Somali refugees heading into neighbouring Kenya. Many Somalis have already crossed the border. In the days ahead, the UN’s World Food Programme is to start dropping supplies from the air.