New York Times:
NAIROBI, Kenya—The Islamist forces who have controlled much of Somalia in recent months suddenly vanished from the streets of the capital, Mogadishu, residents said Wednesday night, just as thousands of rival troops massed 15 miles away.
In the past few days, Ethiopian-backed forces, with tacit approval from the United States, have unleashed tanks, helicopter gunships and jet fighters on the Islamists, decimating their military and paving the way for the internationally recognized transitional government of Somalia to assert control.
Even so, the Islamists, who have been regarded as a regional menace by Ethiopia and the United States, had repeatedly vowed to fight to the death for their religion and their land, making their disappearance that much more unexpected.
Fortified checkpoints across the city—in front of the radio station, at the airport, at the main roads leading into Mogadishu and outside police stations—were abruptly abandoned Wednesday night, residents said.
Many of the teenage troops who made up the backbone of the Islamist army had blended back into the civilian population, walking around without guns or their trademark green skullcaps.
Supporters of the Islamic alliance attend a rally in Mogadishu in June, 2006.