The Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) of Somalia has threatened a major attack in the Horn of Africa country if the Ethiopians that SCIC accuses of backing the Somali interim government don't withdraw from Somalia.
SCIC Defense Chief Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad Inda'ade told reporters in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday that Ethiopian troops had better leave Somalia or else face the consequences.
"If the Ethiopians don't withdraw from Somalia within seven days, we will launch a major attack," warned Inda??ade, national security chairman for the Islamic group.
He also urged the international community to put pressure on Ethiopia to withdraw its troops or they would "be responsible for whatever happens in Somalia."
There are fears of a regional conflict breaking out in Somalia, which could involve Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.
But fearful that Islamist forces are transforming Somalia into a safe haven for al Qaeda, the United States last week pushed through a new UN Security Council resolution endorsing the deployment of African force in Somalia that some experts believe could spark a wider war in the Horn of Africa.
Other analysts said passage of a resolution at this time was certain to be taken as a serious provocation by the SCIC, which gained control of most of Somalia after routing the forces of warlords from the country in June and which the United States accuses of harboring several perpetrators of suicide attacks on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi said late Tuesday that thousands of Islamic militants have surrounded Baidoa, the only town Somalia's internationally recognized government controls.
The town was teeming with soldiers Tuesday, with troops in new uniforms patrolling the city and manning checkpoints.
"I believe that war is inevitable because elements within the so-called Islamic Courts are against peace and stability in the country," Gedi told reporters in Baidoa.
??President Yusuf and I have discussed about the security concerns in the country and we are aware of that the so called Islamists and their allies are still continuing to pour foreign troops in Bur-Hakaba and Dinsor towns of Bay region and that is not secret but it is known by the government, its people and the international community.??
Gedi cited "intelligence reports" as saying that the Islamists have 3,000 foreign fighters, with more arriving daily.
He said four flights carrying weapons and troops arrived in Mogadishu over the weekend, and a boat carrying 700 fighters arrived in Kismayo on Tuesday, allegations denied by the Islamic officials.
Ethiopia has acknowledged sending military advisers to help Gedi's government but denies sending a fighting force.
Ethiopia's Information Ministry spokesman Zemedkun Tekle has said he is rather puzzled by the Islamic Court's announcement.
"The statement that Ethiopia should pull out its troops from Somalia is baseless. As it has been repeatedly said, we do not have any fighting troops there. So they are speaking on an issue which is not actually there,?? said Tekle.
He said his country has no plans to evacuate the Ethiopian military advisors who are in Somalia training government troops.
"We have been asked to send those advisors by the Somali transitional government and whenever they fulfill their tasks there, they will be pulled out," he said.
The Islamists recently declared a Holy War against Ethiopia over the troops issue. In response, the Ethiopian parliament voted to give Prime Minister Meles Zenawi the authority to take any legal action necessary to repel any attacks by the Islamists.
Islamists said they would try to seal the 1,600-kilometer border to keep out any advancing Ethiopian troops and corner those already in Somalia.
Analysts say the clashes and artillery exchanges that took place southwest of Baidoa late last week and at the weekend could be the opening shots of the long-anticipated war for control of Somalia.
A UN report released earlier in November identified 10 nations -- five of which, including Ethiopia and Eritrea, are Somalia??s neighbors -- that have defied the 1992 UN arms embargo by providing military equipment to one side or the other in the country.
Since last June Islamic Courts?? victory, many analysts have called for a major international effort in support of peace talks between the Islamists and the interim government.
But the talks, which have taken place periodically in Khartoum and are next scheduled for Dec. 15, have made no real progress.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since warlords overthrew long-time dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.
The current transitional government was formed two years ago but has been unable to assert its authority over the country.