Following the collapse of the former military government of Siad Barre in 1991, warlords took control of large swathes of land, turning Somalia into a lawless republic.

A system of Sharia-based courts subsequently became the country’s main judicial system and eventually took on other responsibilities, including establishing law and order. A group of these courts later united to form the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a rival administration to the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government formed in 2004. The ICU’s armed branch took up arms to fight the warlords in the capital, Mogadishu.

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