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Local Somalis weigh in on fighting in homeland

Fighting erupted last week between Ethiopia and a powerful Islamic militia after the group declared holy war against the Christian-led Ethiopian government. Now at least one Columbus-area Somali leader says the community is largely siding with the militia.

Reports are Ethiopian jets bombed Somalia's two main airports during the week-end and ground troops seized control of several border towns from the powerful Council of Islamic Courts. The fundamentalist Islamic militia earlier seized control of the capital Mogadishu and brought some order after 15 years of tribal warfare.

Mahdi Taakilo is president of Somali Link Newspaper in Columbus. He says while many local Somalis disagree with the Council's hard-line religious beliefs, they support them because the country is safer under their control.

"They came in and seized all the guns and all the weapons," Taakil says. "What that did was bring peace back to the country."

The United Nations helped set up a central government in Somalia two years ago, but it has not been able to seize control of the impoverished country. Taakilo estimates as many as 55,000 or more Somalis now live in Central Ohio. They began arriving here in the 1990s to flee the civil war that erupted after the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre.