BBC reports that Ethiopia, a major contributor of soldiers to the African Union’s mission in Somalia, has withdrawn troops from a number of towns. Ethiopia pointed to a lack of funding after the EU reduced funds by 20% as the reason for the removal. The withdrawal of troops from several other bases left them open for al-Shabaab militants to move in. As a result, residents fled from the bases in fear of Al Shabaab’s expected arrival.
Meanwhile, it is reported that on Oct. 26, Pro-Islamic-State militants seized Qandala, a large town in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland without any opposition. Voice of America (VOA) reports that government officials fled before about 60 militants walked into the town and hoisted their black and white flag. The New York Times (NYT) describes how residents stood back staring, with a mix of awe and fear. “I’m scared that these men will kill everyone—civilians, soldiers, officials,” Jama Mohamed Khuurshe, the town’s commissioner, said at a news conference.
Islamic State has been trying to make inroads into Somalia for some time now, working to pry influence from al Qaida-linked al Shabaab, which has been terrorizing Somalia for years in a campaign to introduce Sharia law. “Analysts worry that an intensifying rivalry between al Shabaab and the Islamic State would add a new dimension to Somalia’s violence. Half a dozen armies, including a contingent of American Special Forces, are already operating inside Somalia. With Somalia’s fledgling central government still weak and clearly despised, most analysts predict that Somalia will continue to spawn militant groups for years,” explained the NYT.
These new developments bode ill for the few hundred underground Christians remaining in the country. Although being a Christian is dangerous enough in government-controlled areas, our brothers and sisters expect greater brutality from the militants, as is illustrated by the insurgents’ killing of 12 people in a hotel in neighboring Kenya and their subsequent bragging about eliminating infidel Christians. Thank the Lord for the efforts of the African Union and its allies to bring peace in Somalia, and join us in prayer for believers caught between the oppressive government and violent militant groups.
Father, merciful and just, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Somalia and in the neighboring border towns of Kenya where suffering is so great. Gather them in Your arms of comfort. Grow them in the knowledge of Your Word and the experience of Your faithfulness that they might face the suffering of each new day with the courage and steadfastness Your Holy Spirit provides. In their isolation, encourage them with our prayers and with the sure knowledge of Your presence with them. In the midst of suffering and persecution, expand Your Kingdom, turning many to Yourself in saving faith. In the name of Jesus, our sure hope in this life and in the glory set before us, Amen.