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Islamic Courts Union Moves Northward

In a strategically peculiar move, the Islamic Courts Union has moved its militias northward towards the semi-autonomous Puntland region.

The Islamist militia, in an armored convoy of more than 30 battlewagons, are believed to be heading for the southern part of Galkayo, the capital of Mudug region, to establish an Islamic Court there.
Galkayo is currently under the control of allied anti-Islamist forces: Puntland, a semiautonomous state in northern Somalia, and militias loyal to government-allied Col. Abdi Qeibdid, one of Mogadishu’s defeated warlords.

In August, the ICU advanced towards the town of Galkayo, inducing a response from the region’s militias. At the time, Puntland Police Commander Yusef Ahmed Kheyr indicated that “we hear that militiamen want to expand their authority throughout Somalia, but we will never accept such expansion.” Until now, the ICU has been denied any real presence close to the Puntland border, save for Galkayo. Yet, with increased numbers and a more established presence in the south, the ICU may have better luck advancing this time around.

However, this is a strategically anomalous move by the Islamic Courts Union. The impending war between the ICU and the Transitional Federal Government will most certainly take place in the south near Baidoa. By advancing towards the Puntland region, it is increasingly possible that a second front will be opened between the ICU and Colonel Abdi Qeibdid’s militias. In any battle, fighting a two front war is something to avoid. If there is an engagement in the north, it’s plausible that ICU fighters may be called away from Baidoa, diminishing the force attacking the TFG. This would undoubtedly be a welcome scenario in the eyes of the government and could provide the TFG with an opportunity to counter the ICU’s advance.