There is an alarming new report about the situation in Somalia. United Nations monitors say seven countries and various groups are supporting Islamists who control much of the country. The report also ties Somalia's Islamists to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The monitors say that weapons are pouring from various sources, despite an arms embargo. And there are fears that the conflict could spread throughout the Horn of Africa.
The U.N.-backed transitional government in Somalia is no match for the Islamic Courts Union, which controls much of the country and has many sponsors, according to the U.N. monitoring group's report.
It says Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen have all sent weapons and military equipment to the interim government, which is holed up in the city of Baidoa. The Islamic Courts Union receives diverse, sophisticated weapons and other support from Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters in Nairobi Wednesday that countries need to stay out.
But the U.N. report is on the alarmist side, according to Ken Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College who monitors Somalia. Menkhaus was in the country after the Islamic Courts Union took Mogadishu in the spring.
"We've got a very wide rang of opinions about the nature of the courts, their leadership, their intentions ranging from very sanguine to very alarmist," Menkhaus says. "This one is very alarmist"
But he says the report does back up its arguments with detailed information. The U.N. panel reported that there are a considerable number of foreign fighters in Somalia helping the Islamic Courts, and it alleged that Iranians were trying to trade arms for uranium. Iran denied sending any weapons to the Islamic Courts Union.
Menkhaus and other analysts had doubts about another section of the report, which said that the Islamists sent more than 700 Somalis to Lebanon to fight alongside Hezbollah in its war with Israel over the summer. Menkhaus said he'd be surprised if Somalis were actually involved in the fighting. But he does suspect that the militia the report referred to has been trained abroad.