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Islamic insurgents regroup and vow to 'fight to the death' for Somalia
THE Somali government has declared victory over its rivals, but the most extreme elements of the Islamic insurgency remain intact, with fresh recruits, new funding, and intent on turning the country into a haven for al-Qaeda.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in the last month, 400 of them last week, in violence caused, in part, by the militants. The government, supported by Ethiopian troops, declared victory on Thursday, but the extremists appear to be infiltrating towns across the country.
At stake is the most strategically-located nation in the Horn of Africa; a lawless country at a crossroads between the Middle East and Africa and dominating important sea lanes. A UN-supported government has tried to exert control, but has influence over only a tiny part of the territory.
The government's failure has opened the door for a new takeover by radical Islamic elements who grabbed power for six months last year, filling the country's power vacuum with a strict religious government. Like the Taliban, former rulers in Afghanistan and hosts to Osama bin Laden, the Somali radicals, called the radical wing of the Council of Islamic Courts, harbour al-Qaeda terrorists, according to US officials.