Islamist fighters have retreated from several positions on the frontline in Somalia, after a week of fighting. The government says this is a “partial victory”, but the Islamists insist it’s a “tactical withdrawal”, in what will be “a long drawn-out war”. They pulled out of the town of Buur Hakaba, to the southeast of Baidoa, under a hail of fire from Ethiopian jets backing government forces. A Somali envoy has said Ethiopian troops are now advancing on the capital Mogadishu, an Islamist stronghold. He said they could seize it over the next two days.
The government has offered an amnesty to any Islamists who lay down their guns, hoping to forestall a guerrilla campaign. But the militants are refusing to concede defeat. Many are heading out to reinforce fellow soldiers beaten back around the government base in Baidoa. An Islamic Courts Union leader says the retreat merely signals a new phase in the war. Both sides say seven days of combat have caused hundreds of deaths. In the meantime, after enduring droughts and the worst floods in years, Somalis are now fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid the war zone.