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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 December 2006, 16:55 GMT
Eyewitness: 'Everything is unpredictable'
Somali human rights activist Ali Said Omar, 27, describes the mood in his country's capital, Mogadishu, after Islamist fighters flee and Ethiopian-backed government forces arrive.

Islamist soldiers at Mogadishu airport before their retreat
Warplanes bombed Mogadishu's airport on Monday
Bakara market was unusually quiet this morning.

Most of the streets are empty. Businesses are closed, as are shops and restaurants. I saw a few groups of two or three people together chatting, and there are only a small number of cars around.

The big Muslim holiday Eid ul-Hajj is on Saturday and now this makes life even stranger as people were waiting for this celebration, looking forward to it.

People should be doing their shopping now for the holiday but the shops are closed and everyone is remaining indoors.

No-one wants to go into the streets. Anything could happen.

Waiting and shocked

Looting has been going on. Some of those involved freelance militia that were kicked out by the Islamists, but some are just opportunists, grabbing as much money as they can. Last night many, many people were robbed.

Speaking to people I did pass it seems as if our city is full of tears, waiting to burst. Most seem very worried, some terrified, waiting to know what to do.

People are very shocked because we were expecting that things would take longer. However, three days ago, when helicopters and warplanes appeared over our city and the bombs were dropped on Mogadishu airport, we got the feeling that what is going on is an international war - the war on terror.

The fighter planes were coming from the sea and US ships from their Djibouti base are in the Indian Ocean. People really do believe that the US is part of this mission.


Last night before the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) left they told the city that they were fleeing so that fighting would not take place in the streets, so women and children would not be harmed - they said we're doing this to save you.

Somali government troops
Somali government troops have entered parts of Mogadishu

Some people agree with the Courts' decision but some are angry that they have abandoned the city.

Already things in our city are chaotic again and if this continues it will be a very catastrophic situation.

If our city goes back to how it was six months ago it will be very complicated.

So much has changed.

'Easy to get a gun'

The weapons are now back in the hands of anyone who wants one.

When the Islamist Courts took control they recruited some of the different militia groups, trained them and taught them about Islam.

Our fear is chaos, confrontation. Chaos and conflict, lawlessness

But now that the Islamic Courts have gone those same militia are now trying to gain control once more.

They have not forgotten their loyalties to the warlords, they are awake again. It is easy to get a gun, to start over... everything is possible for them.

But it is not only the previous warlords who are making their way back, it is also some of the city's businessmen - they are now back in control, they are the ones that supply the weapons.

Whether one supports the Islamists or not though it is all about the future of the civilians now.


No-one is giving much consideration to the transitional government as they are only being guided by the Ethiopians who are in turn are guided by the Americans.

If the government brings the previous warlords back then life will revert to how it was - the warlords will kill everyone to gain revenge on the people for supporting the Islamic courts. The people will be punished.


Two warlords escaped with the help of the Americans when the Islamists took over. Since 9/11 everything has changed... America used to be a dream for us.

But here the Ethiopians are hated more. You see - this is Somalia not Ethiopia. You do not have a right to come to another country and destroy civilians and say you are doing it to protect your own country.

People are comparing Ethiopia's action to what America has done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ethiopia is saying that Somalis are a threat to our security.

People here are very angry with Ethiopia and then secondly with America. But not with Britain. Although the UK is very alike to the US, the understanding here is quite different, people here do not have animosity to the people of the UK.

Although they were the colonisers and they were the ones that first gave away the Ogaden to Ethiopia, when you go back into history the UK has been welcoming to many of our people since the 1980s.


Things are chaotic now and things can easily deteriorate even more. It depends what the next move is.

If the transitional government can come up with a viable strategy to provide shelter and security for the Somali civilians then it will be a good scenario.

Somali woman purchases cloth at Bakara Market, Mogadishu
Few people are going about their normal business in Mogadishu

I am not going to affiliate myself to any clan. I have no special fears related to that because of who I am - I see myself as neutral - but I do fear the ways in which this situation will affect us Somalis.

Our fear is chaos, confrontation. Chaos and conflict, lawlessness.

So many are already fleeing the city.

I am always very hopeful and optimistic but at this stage everything is very unpredictable. We do not know the agenda of the Ethiopians or the transitional government.

If they allow the warlords to return and stay then there will be nothing left but to flee.

That would be the only choice.

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