Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hotel Attack Points To Deepening Crisis In Somalia

Six Somalian MPs are among at least 32 people killed in a gun and grenade attack on a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu. The Islamist group al-Shabaab has said it carried out the attack.

Today's incident is the worst outbreak of fighting since yesterday's announcement from al-Shabaab that it was beginning a new offensive against the African Union forces who have been trying to prop up the country's transitional government. The Islamists include elements of the old UIC regime, which briefly ran Somalia in 2006, until they were forced out by US-backed Ethiopian troops because of their hardline Islamist policies. Since then, the transitional government has not managed to impose much authority on Somalia, large areas of which remain more or less lawless.

The attack shows that the threat posed by al-Shabaab is perhaps even more serious than had been thought. The hotel was in one of the few areas of Mogadishu considered safe. For al-Shabaab to strike in such brazen and deadly fashion is further evidence of the group's growing strength. The notion that al-Shabaab's latest offensive could result in the complete overthrow of the transitional government, and the defeat of the African Union forces, now seems to be a definite possibility.

If that happens, the US and others who don't want to see an Islamist regime re-established in Somalia, may decide they have little choice but to intervene, perhaps once again using the Ethiopian army. The crisis in Somalia, which has been largely ignored by the rest of the world in recent years, could be about to return to the front pages.

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