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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09NAIROBI146 2009-01-27 14:29:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Nairobi
Cable title:  

SOMALIA - BAIDOA FALLS TO ISLAMISTS

Tags:   PGOV PREL PINR SO 
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1. (SBU) Summary: On January 26, Ethiopian troops departed Baidoa,
the seat of the Somali parliament, setting off local clan
in-fighting that facilitated the relatively peaceful entry of
al-Shabaab militia loyal to Mukhtar Robow "al-Masur." In meetings
with local clan elders and local militia leaders, Robow helped
restore order to Baidoa and reassure the population. Baidoa's fall
is unlikely to affect political progress toward a unity government
(refs A and B). As was the formula for al-Shabaab's takeover in
Kismayo in August (ref C), in Baidoa the extremists capitalized on
local inter-clan rivalries to take over the city. End Summary.

ENDF withdrawal sparks chaos


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Early January 26, as part of a broader withdrawal from
Somalia, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) departed
Baidoa, the seat of Somalia's parliament. Most parliamentarians
were in Djibouti taking part in deliberations to form a unity
government and elect a new president (Refs A and B). Media contacts
tell us that, to prevent a security vacuum, the ENDF left behind
surplus and previously confiscated weapons and vehicles to Baidoa's
main militia leaders, including that of Acting President and
Parliamentary Speaker Adan Mohamed Nur "Madobe," Hassan Mohamed Nur
"Sharti Gudud," and TFG Transport Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade.
According to our contacts, absent Ethiopia's usual mediation between
the local groups, negotiations over how to divide the weapons
degenerated into city-wide fighting. As the fighting spread, first
the public, then the militias themselves began looting the offices
of the presidency and parliament. Clan elders tried in vain to
separate the militias and halt the looting. The rival local
militias eventually abandoned the city as al-Shabaab entered.

Al-Shabaab Capitalizes on Clan Affiliations


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Just hours after the ENDF forces withdrew, al-Shabaab
militia in small numbers converged on the city unopposed, halted the
looting and restored calm, according to our contacts. Rahanweyne
clan elders, including Habsade, who had remained in the city,
reportedly met with al-Shabaab Spokesman and fellow Rahanweyne
clansman Mukhtar Robow "al-Masur." Together, al-Shabaab leaders and
clan leaders toured the city and reassured the population. With
Robow's permission, Habsade, his personal security contingent and
several TFG and prospective ARS MPs left Baidoa bound for Djibouti
to participate in the formation of a unity parliament.



4. (SBU) Subsequent reports are that Robow addressed Baidoa's
residents in the town's soccer stadium. He reassured them of their
security, pledged not to harm TFG civil servants and officials, and
offered a two-day grace period to return looted property. TFG
officials also seem to have called a truce: media report that
Mohamed Omar Dalha, TFG deputy speaker, down-played al-Shabaab's
takeover of Baidoa, terming them "fellow Somalis."

Comment


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Comment: Baidoa's capture by al-Shabaab is a
disappointment, but not wholly unexpected, and is unlikely to affect
efforts at political reconciliation taking place in Djibouti (refs A
and B). MPs tell us they had moved their possessions out of the
city before leaving for Djibouti, with the expectation the city
would fall to insurgents. Although Baidoa was the seat of Somalia's
parliament, the legislature has facilities to meet in Mogadishu, the
seat of government.



6. (SBU) Comment, continued: As it did in Kismayo last year (ref
C), in Baidoa a reportedly small al-Shabaab force capitalized on
local inter-clan rivalries to take over the city. In addition to
its military might, Ethiopia secured Baidoa by keeping a lid on the
competitive impulses of the city's warlords. When the ENDF left,
the knives came out, and al-Shabaab moved in. Furthermore, Baidoa's
clan makeup favored Robow and his forces, and contributed to the

NAIROBI 00000146 002 OF 002


ease of their success. Rahanweynes dominate the Bay region and its
capital Baidoa, and they view Robow as one of their own. Many of
Robow's al-Shabaab fighters are also Rahanweynes. In a media
interview shortly before al-Shabaab entered Baioda, even TFG
Minister Habsade reportedly said the town shouldn't fear an
al-Shabaab take-over, as they were not "outsiders." Barring an ENDF
return to Baidoa, and until a Somali unity government can mount a
credible security force, Robow's thin al-Shabaab presence will
likely be sufficient to control Baidoa for the foreseeable future.
End Comment.

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Somaliawatchers@state.sgov.gov.

RANNEBERGER