Islamist rebels in Somalia captured the port city of Merka today as they continue to move in on Mogadishu, the weak transitional government’s stronghold, the New York Times reports. Hundreds of militants entered Merka, unopposed because government forces had fled the city the previous night. After weeks of steady advances, the al-Shabab militia of the Islamic Courts Union now controls large portions of the country.
A transitional government official said they expect the Islamists to attack Mogadishu next, “but we’re not going to run away. We’re going to fight with whatever we have,” adding that Western governments should help them against the “terrorists.” Al-Shabab has enforced a brutal form of Sharia law in the areas it controls. Last week a 13-year-old girl was stoned to death for “adultery” after reporting that she was raped.