There were some alarmist headlines when Islamist fighters seized the strategic port of Merka in southern Somalia this month. “The threat the [Islamic Courts Union] posed in late 2006 has thus re-materialized: that Islamists will Talibanize Somalia and nurture a regional base for jihadism that exports insecurity and instability,” one heavy-breathing reporter claimed.
But Islamic rule in Somalia actually might improve security and stability. My Somali sources express hope that Islamic gains will mean a big boost in law and order: indeed, the perception that the Islamists are prepared to stabilize Somalia accounts for their widespread popular support in the country.
Furthermore, there is evidence that the Islamists are prepared to work with the U.N., which administers food programs that feed almost half the Somali population. Pete Smerdon, a World Food Program official, says that the new Islamic regime in Merka has done nothing to impede the flow of food shipments into the port.
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