Nightly News | August 06, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: For millions of people starving in the Horn of Africa , a stunning development today and the first ray of hope in months. Islamist rebels who had been blocking desperately needed aid deliveries appear to have pulled out of the Somali capital of Mogadishu . It's a move that could be a turning point in the violence and famine in Somalia . Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is there.
RICHARD ENGEL reporting: At a health clinic in Mogadishu , it's hard to see how malnourished Mirian is, until her grandmother takes off her shirt. Mirian weighs only nine pounds, a little more than when she was born two and a half years ago, but she's getting better. She can drink from a bottle and keep the liquids down. But at this clinic, everyone had some relief today. Al-Qaeda -backed militants unexpectedly left Mogadishu overnight. For three years, a violent militia called al-Shabaab has been hated here. It banned music and gold, and imposed harsh Islamic law . But when the Taliban -style militants banned foreign food relief, it was too much for women like Ido Hasan . She lost two of her children to the famine.
Ms. IDO HASAN:
ENGEL: ' Al-Shabaab denied food access to our region. We hate them for that,' she said. African peacekeepers here were stunned this morning to find al-Shabaab out of the city. It could be a temporary withdrawal, the militants could still do suicide attacks, but Somalia 's prime minister told me it's none the less a victory for his government, which yesterday only controls half of Mogadishu .
Dr. ABDIWELI MOHAMED ALI (Somali Prime Minister): I think the only reason that they left the capital city is because they lost the fight.
ENGEL: We traveled by convoy with the African peacekeepers through newly taken land, to the old soccer stadium. This was the main al-Shabaab training camp in Mogadishu ; explosives, snipers. This is where the militants made almost all of their videos. Now, the Shabaab appear to have left. Violence in Somalia won't stop. But denying food to starving people may have cost al-Shabaab a key stronghold in Mogadishu that could be difficult to take back. Richard Engel , NBC News, Mogadishu .
HOLT: Many of you have been asking how to help. We have been compiling a list of charities on our Web site . The address is nightly.msnbc.com.