Somalia War (2006–2009)

Somali War (2006–2009)
Part of the Somali Civil War, the Ethiopian–Somali conflict and War on Terror
Political situation in Somalia following the Ethiopian withdrawal.png
Situation of the war in Somalia February 3, 2009.
DateDecember 20, 2006 – January 30, 2009
(2 years, 1 month, 1 week and 3 days)
Southern Somalia

Ethiopian/TFG military victory

Insurgency: Alleged:
Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
  • ICU militants: 8,000
  • Alleged foreign militants: 3,000, 4,000 or 8,000[6][7][8][9]
  • Somalia: 10,000 soldiers[10]
  • Ethiopia: 8,000-15,000 soldiers[10][4]
  • AMISOM: 5,250 soldiers
Casualties and losses
  • 225 killed
  • 500 wounded[4]
Somalia (TFG):
  • 891+ killed
  • 15,000 deserted[15]
  • 7 killed
  • 6 killed
  • 2 killed
Total: 1,100+ killed
Civilian casualties:
  • 16,724 killed[16]
  • 1.9 million displaced[17]
2008 civilian casualties:
(see § Casualties and displacement)

The Somalia War, also known as the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia,[19][20] was an armed conflict involving Ethiopian (ENDF) and Transitional Federal Government forces and Somali troops from Puntland against the Islamic Court Union, and militias affiliated to them for control of Somalia.

Information warfare, disinformation and propaganda

In the report 'Collective Punishment' Human Rights Watch pointed out that Ethiopia's repeated claims to the international audience that insecurity in the region was caused by Eritrean-backed "terrorists" were designed to attract US support as part of the 'War on Terror' and did not justify Ethiopia's violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law.[21]

Eastern African countries and international observers had feared the Ethiopian offensive may lead to a regional war, involving Eritrea, which has a complex relationship with Ethiopia and whom Ethiopia claimed to have been a supporter of the ICU.[22] The Eritrean government repeatedly denied any involvement despite Ethiopian claims to the contrary.[23][24][25]

Even before the Ethiopian invasion, there have been significant assertions and accusations of the use of disinformation and propaganda tactics by Ethiopia and the TFG to shape the causes and course of the conflict. This includes assertions of falsification of the presence or number of forces involved, exaggeration or minimization of the casualties inflicted or taken, influence or control of media outlets (or shutting them down), and other informational means and media to sway popular support and international opinion.

Forces involved

Forces involved are difficult to calculate because of many factors, including lack of formal organization or record-keeping, and claims which remained masked by disinformation. Ethiopia for months leading up to the war maintained it had only a few hundred advisors in the country. Yet independent reports indicated far more troops. According to the BBC, "The United Nations estimated that at least over 9,000 Ethiopian troops may be in the country while the AP suggests the number closer to 12–15,000,[26]

ONLF involvement

On November 28, 2006, the ONLF threatened that it would not allow Ethiopian troops to stage into Somalia from their territories.[27] On December 23, the ONLF claimed to have attacked an Ethiopian column near Baraajisale heading to Somalia, destroying 4 of 20 vehicles, inflicting casualties and driving the convoy back.[28] No independent source has confirmed the attack.

On January 10, 2007, ONLF condemned Ethiopia's entry into the war in Somalia, stating that Meles Zenawi's invasion of Somalia demonstrated that his government had been an active participant in the Somali conflict with a clear agenda aimed at undermining the Somali sovereignty.[29] On January 15, ONLF rebels attacked Ethiopian soldiers in Kebri Dahar, Gerbo, and Fiq. Five Ethiopian soldiers and one ONLF rebel were reported killed.[30]

War crimes allegations

The force of about 3,000 Ethiopian troops faced war crimes allegations by human rights groups.[31] The Transitional Federal Government who invited them were also accused of human rights abuses and war crimes including murder, rape, assault, and looting by human rights groups [32]

In their December 2008 report 'So much to Fear' Human Rights Watch warned that since the Ethiopians had intervened in 2006 Somalia was facing a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not witnessed since the early 1990s. They went on to accuse the TFG of terrorising the citizens of Mogadishu and the Ethiopian soldiers for increasing violent criminality.[32]

A second Human Rights Watch report 'Collective Punishment', also published in 2008, made a catalogue of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ogaden by the Ethiopian government and its forces, including;[21]

  • forced evacuation
  • killings
  • burning of villages
  • rape and sexual violence
  • arbitrary detention
  • abuse and torture of detainees
  • execution of detainees
  • forced recruitment of pro-government militias
  • confiscation of livestock
  • trade embargo
  • restrictions on movement, herding and access to water sources
  • restrictions on humanitarian assistance


Historic background

Wars between Somalia and Ethiopia stretch back to the 16th century. For example, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi was a 16th-century Islamic leader popular in Somali culture for his jihad against the Ethiopians during the rise of the Adal Sultanate. The painful living history, oral and cultural traditions, long-standing ethnic divisions, and sectarian differences lay a foundation of conflict between the two nations.[citation needed]

More recently, boundary disputes over the Ogaden region date to the 1948 settlement when the land was granted to Ethiopia. Somali disgruntlement with this decision has led to repeated attempts to invade Ethiopia with the hopes of taking control of the Ogaden to create a Greater Somalia. This plan would have reunited the Somali people of the Ethiopian-controlled Ogaden with those living in the Republic of Somalia. These ethnic and political tensions have caused cross-border clashes over the years.

Prelude to the invasion

Ethiopian troop began their occupation of Somalia on July 20, 2006.[36]

On October 9, it was reported Ethiopian troops seized Burhakaba. Another article seemed to indicate the Ethiopian control was a troop convoy passing through. Islamists claim the town reverted to their control after the Ethiopians departed. SomaliNet reports the elders asked the TFG to leave to avoid bloodshed in their town. The article said it was TFG troops, and not Ethiopians who had come to the town.[37][citation needed]

On December 8, 2006, the ICU were attacked by TFG forces, backed up by Ethiopian troops. According to the BBC, ICU Chairman Sharif Sheikh Ahmed called on Somalis to "stand up and defeat the enemies".[38] Another official said Ethiopian troops had shelled the town of Bandiradley. The Deputy Defence Minister of the TFG, Salat Ali Jelle, confirmed the fighting but denied any Ethiopian troops were involved. The Ethiopian government denied repeated claims that its troops were fighting alongside TFG militia.[citation needed] Witnesses in Dagaari village near Bandiradley said that they saw hundreds of Ethiopian troops and tanks take up positions near the town with militiamen from the northeastern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.[39][citation needed]

On December 13, a Reuters report said that the ICU claimed 30,000 Ethiopian troops were involved in Somalia.[8]


Map of the initial Ethiopian advancements in December 2006

Major events

The weak and fragile TFG made the unpopular decision to invite Ethiopia to intervene in Somalia.[40]

The Battle of Baidoa began on December 20, 2006 when the TFG's forces allied with occupying Ethiopian forces attacked the ICU. Heavy shooting broke out between TFG troops and Islamists 25 km (16 mi) southeast of Baidoa[41][citation needed]

The Battle of Bandiradley began on December 23, 2006, when Puntland and Ethiopian forces, along with faction leader Abdi Qeybdid, fought ICU militias which were defending Bandiradley. The fighting pushed the Islamists out of Bandiradley and over the border south into Adado district, Galgadud region, by December 25.[42]

By December 24, direct Ethiopian intervention in the conflict in support of the TFG was confirmed by the Ethiopian government.[43]

On 26 December 2006, the United Nations envoy to Somalia urged an end to the fighting, and the President of the United Nations Security Council, proposed a draft statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of all international forces, specifying Ethiopian troops. US, Britain, France, and Russia, objected to the statement, saying peace talks and agreement were necessary before troops could withdraw.[44] ICU chairman Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, told reporters ICU militias were retreating and called on the United States and other countries to speak out against Ethiopia's aggression.

On December 27, 2006, the top leaders of the Islamic Courts Union, including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Sheikh Abdirahman Janaqow, resigned on 27 December 2006, and the organisation was disbanded.[45]

On December 29 TFG and Ethiopian troops entered Mogadishu unopposed.

As of January 2007, Ethiopia said it would withdraw "within a few weeks"[46]

After the parliament took in 200 officials from the moderate Islamist opposition, ARS leader Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected TFG President on January 31, 2009.[47] After this, the Al Shabab radical Islamists accused the new TFG President of accepting the secular transitional government and have continued the civil war since he arrived in Mogadishu at the presidential palace.[48]

In January 2009, Ethiopian troops finally withdrew from Somalia.[19]

Al Shabaab rejected any peace deal and continued to take territories including Baidoa. Another Islamist group, Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, which is allied to the TFG supported by Ethiopia, continued to attack Al Shabab and take over towns as well.[3][49][50]

December 2006

  • December 20, 2006: Major fighting broke out around the TFG capital of Baidoa. Thirteen trucks filled with Ethiopian reinforcements were reported en-route to the fighting. Leaders of both groups briefly kept an option open for peace talks brokered by the EU.[51][citation needed] Following the carnage Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, who was one of the ICU leaders, is reported to have observed that, "Somalia is in a state of war".[52]
  • December 22, 2006: Nearly 20 Ethiopian tanks headed toward the front line. According to government sources Ethiopia had 20 T-55 tanks and four attack helicopters in Baidoa.[53][citation needed]
  • December 23, 2006: Ethiopian tanks and further reinforcements arrived in Daynuunay, 30 kilometres east of Baidoa; prompting ICU forces to vow all-out war despite a commitment to an EU-brokered peace. Heavy fighting continued in Lidale and Dinsoor.[54][citation needed]
  • December 24, 2006: Ethiopia admitted its troops were fighting the Islamists, after stating earlier in the week it had only sent several hundred military advisors to Baidoa. Heavy fighting erupted in border areas, with reports of airstrikes and shelling, including targets near the ICU-held town of Beledweyne. According to Ethiopian Information Minister Berhan Hailu: "The Ethiopian government has taken self-defensive measures and started counter-attacking the aggressive extremist forces of the Islamic Courts and foreign terrorist groups."[43]
Ethiopian army T-55 tank near Mogadishu


Military events in January 2007 focused on the southern section of Somalia, primarily the withdrawal of the Islamists from Kismayo, and their pursuit using Ethiopian airstrikes in Afmadow district concurrent to the Battle of Ras Kamboni. During this battle, the United States launched an airstrike conducted by an AC-130 gunship which they claimed was against suspected Al-Qaeda operatives. A second airstrike was made after the battle later in January 2007.[59]

Situation in Somalia in December 2007

By the end of March, the fighting intensified in Mogadishu and more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, were killed.[citation needed] Combat deaths numbered 9 Ethiopian soldiers, 6 Somali soldiers, and an unknown number of insurgents.[citation needed] Hawiye clan militiamen[citation needed] allied with the Islamists[citation needed] clashed with TFG and Ethiopian troops.

In December 2007, the Ethiopian troops withdrew from the town of Guriel, and the Islamists controlled Guriel after that. Ethiopia had a big military base there to secure the road linking the two countries.[60]

By the end of December 2007 there were over 700,000 internally displaced people and 6,000 civilians had been killed in Mogadishu. The United Nations said it was the worst ever humanitarian crises in Africa. The TFG claimed that the ICU was regrouping, but the Ethiopian Government refuted this claim.[61]


In February 2008, Al Shabaab captured the town of Dinsoor after probing it several times. This marked a change in their strategy which previously focused mainly on the capital Mogadishu.[62][63][64] In late May after capturing the two towns near Kismayo.[65] The Insurgents agreed not to attack Kismayo a city ruled by clan militia.[66] A new Islamic court was opened in Jowhar, 90 km away from the capital Mogadishu.[67]

On March 3, 2008, the United States launched an air strike on the Somali town of Dhoble. U.S. officials claimed the town was held by Islamic extremists, but gave few details to the press.[68][citation needed] It was reported that Hassan Turki was in the area. The same area was targeted by US bombers one year earlier.[69] An air strike occurred on May 1 in Dhusamareb. It killed the leader of Al-Shabaab Aden Hashi Eyrow along with another senior commander and several civilians; however, the attack did nothing to slow down the Insurgency.[70]

Situation in Somalia in August 2008

After long talks in Djibouti over a ceasefire between the TFG and the moderate Islamists of the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia, agreement was reached that the parliament would be doubled in size to include 200 representatives of the opposition alliance and 75 representatives of the civil society.[71] A new president and prime minister would be elected by the new parliament, and a commission to look into crimes of war would be established.[72] A new constitution was also agreed to be drafted shortly.[73]

In early December 2008, Ethiopia announced it would withdraw its troops from Somalia shortly, and later announced that it would first help secure the withdrawal of the AMISOM peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda before withdrawing. The quick withdrawal of the AMISOM peacekeepers was seen as putting additional pressure on the United Nations to provide peacekeeping.[74]


Somali troops on December 31, 2008, were seen by civilians packing up supplies and forwarding troop deployments except in the city of Mogadishu. December 31, 2008 was supposed to be when the Ethiopian troops were to withdraw from Somalia but it appears it will be several weeks after the resignation of President Yusuf earlier in December. With a power vacuum growing, it is unknown who will capitalize on the situation.[75]

On January 25, 2009, Ethiopian troops completely pulled out of Somalia.[76]

Situation in Somalia in February 2009, following the Ethiopian withdrawal

Al-Shabaab captured Baidoa, where the TFG parliament was based, on January 26. Following the collapse of the TFG, pro-TFG moderate Islamist group Ahlu Sunnah continued to fight Al-Shabaab and captured a few towns.

The former chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected to become the new President of a united Somali government signalling the end of the Transitional Federal Government marked by the resignation of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed the previous month and a joint unity government of the ARS-TFG.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, 42, promised to "forge peace with east African neighbors, tackle rampant piracy offshore and rein in hardline insurgents".[75][77] "Analysts said Sharif Sheikh Ahmed had a real possibility of reuniting Somalis, given his Islamist roots, the backing of parliament and a feeling in once hostile Western nations that he should now be given a chance to try to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation".[77]

New TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed arrived in Mogadishu as a president for the first time on February 7, 2009. Al-Shabaab and other radical Islamists began firing at the new TFG president hours later. They accused the new President of accepting the secular transitional government.[78]

Mediation had begun between the Islamic Party and the new Transitional Government of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as well as a growing divide being reported in the Al Shabaab organization that controls much of southern Somalia as a large number of Al Shabaab leaders who had held positions in government during the six-month reign of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 had met behind closed doors with the President of the Transitional Government and the TFG had announced that Sharia law would be implemented in Somalia, but it had not acted on it.[79][80] TFG President Sharif's moderate Islamist forces and African Union troops clashed with the Islamic Party and Al Shabaab forces, leading to at least 23 death.[81] Moderate Islamist and other pro-TFG militias were allegedly being trained by Ethiopia, while the newly formed Islamist Party had been established by Eritrea-based Sheikh Aweys.


"Endless war"

A 2010 report published in Accord Issue 21 entitled Endless War states that:[82]

The three years from 2006-08 were catastrophic for Somalis. Military occupation, a violent insurgency, rising jihadism, and massive population displacement has reversed the incremental political and economic progress achieved by the late 1990s in south-central Somalia. With 1.3 million people displaced by fighting since 2006, 3.6 million people in need of emergency food aid, and 60,000 Somalis a year fleeing the country, the people of south-central Somalia face the worst humanitarian crisis since the early 1990s.

Casualties and displacement

As of December 2008, The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation said it had verified that 16,210 civilians had been killed and 29,000 wounded since the start of the war in December 2006.[83][citation needed] In September of that year 1.9 million displaced civilians from homes in Mogadishu alone during the year 2007 had been documented.[17][84]


On 20 February 2007, the United Nations Security Council authorised the African Union to deploy a peacekeeping mission. The aim of the peacekeeping mission was to support a national reconciliation congress in Somalia.[85] The military component consists of troops drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia.[86]

Suicide attacks

Islamist fighters in Somalia opened a completely new aspect in the Somali Civil War: suicide attacks. Here is a list of reported attacks:

Coalition government

Prime Minister Nur Hassan of the transitional government and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of opposition group Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia signed a power sharing deal in Djibouti that was brokered by the United Nations. According to the deal, Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia, giving their bases to the transitional government, African Union peacekeepers and moderate Islamist groups led by ARS. Following the Ethiopian withdrawal, the transitional government expanded its parliament to include the opposition and elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as its new president on January 31, 2009.

Continued occupation

Despite the Djibouti Agreement there has been a continued occupation of Somalia by the Ethiopian army.

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has continued to campaign for the withdrawal of the occupying Ethiopian forces. In May 2020 the Forum for National Parties which he leads, described the presence of non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops in Somalia as;

A blatant disregard for the longstanding agreement between the Federal Republic of Somalia and the AMISOM troop-contributing countries (TCC), which clearly defines the scope of the African Union peacekeeping mission in our country.

The letter went on to accuse the ENDF of a 'cavalier attitude' in there response to having shot down a civilian plane in Berdale which was carrying medical supplies for assistance in the Covid19 pandemic. The Forum for National Parties warned that the Ethiopian government's intention was to;

intervene in the upcoming federal parliamentary and presidential elections, and to intimidate opposition groups all across the country

They blamed the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, for not only failing to secure the withdrawal of the non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops but having worked in collusion with them to interfere in the South West election in 2018 and Jubaland election in August 2019.[91]

On 13 November 2020 Bloomberg reported that Ethiopia withdrew thousands of troops from Somalia and redeployed them to assist the Ethiopian government in the Tigray conflict.[92]

Continuation of the conflict

Ahlu Sunna

In February 2011 Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a militias attacked Al Shabaab in central Somalia including killing an Islamist commander. Ahlu Sunna clan militias, reportedly armed by Ethiopia, retook control of Galgaduud's provincial capital Dhusamareb and the trading town of Guriel in fierce battles that killed upwards of 100 people.[93]


The Ethiopian Army was equipped with predominantly Soviet-made weapons while TFG and Islamist weapons vary, having mostly small arms. The following table should not be considered exhaustive.

Type Ethiopian Army TFG Islamists
Tanks T-55, T-62, T-72[94] none none
APC's/IFV's BTR-40, M113, BTR-60 technicals technicals, Fiat 6614
Artillery 2A18, M1937 Howitzer, M109 Paladin, BM-21, 120 mm mortars 120 mm mortars 120 mm mortar
Aircraft MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-27[94] none none
Helicopters Mi-6, Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-24/35 none none
Small Arms, Light Weapons AK-47, AK-103, Heckler & Koch G3, PKM, DShK, ZU-23, RPG-2, RPG-7 AK-47, Heckler & Koch G3, PKM, DShK, ZU-23, RPG-2, RPG-7 AK-47, DShK, Browning M2, ZU-23, M79, RPG-7

Key men

Transitional Federal Government (TFG)

An August 24, 2006 article in the Sudan Tribune[95] identified several fraction groups involved with TFG military units:

  • Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed – TFG president, former leader of the SSDF.
  • Mohamed Omar Habeeb (Mohamed Dheere) – controlled the Jowhar region with the help of Ethiopia; after losing in Mogadishu as part of the ARPCT, regrouped his militia in Ethiopia and since returned (see Battle of Jowhar).
  • Muuse Suudi Yalahow – Controlled Medina District in Mogadishu but was forced to flee by the ICU. Has since returned to the city.
  • Hussein Mohamed Farrah – son of late General Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Although his father was a key anti-U.N. force in the mid-1990s, Farrah is a naturalized U.S. citizen and former U.S. Marine who controlled Villa Somalia. Former leader of the SRRC militia. The Sudan Tribune says Farrah is in the patronage of Ethiopia, and Western interests see him as their best hope to improve Somali-Western relations.
  • Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdiid – former finance minister under Gen. Aidid; arrested in Sweden for war crimes, but later released due to lack of evidence.
  • Colonel Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud – affiliated with the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA). Came to power after his militia (with the help of Ethiopian paramilitary forces) drove out Aidid's militia from Baidoa, which became the seat of the transitional government. Currently TFG Minister of Finance.
  • Mohamed Qanyare Afrah – former Security Minister and member of ARPCT
  • Barre Aadan Shire "Hiiraale" – leader of the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA); controls Kismayo (and until its loss to the ICU, Marka region).
  • Hassan Abdullah Qalaad

Islamic Court Union (ICU)

Islamist leaders

See also


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