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Mohammed ibn Adbullah: 1899-1920

The man dubbed the Mad Mullah by the British popular press is a devout Muslim cleric who turns out to be an inspired leader of guerrilla forces. His tribal origins are in the Ogaden, but he is living in the British protectorate at Taleh. In 1899 a combination of circumstances combine to provoke him and his followers into an uprising against the British colonial forces.

One cause of resentment is the Christian missions brought in by the British. Another is the collusion of the colonial powers in carving up Somali territory; in 1896-7 Britain and Italy have transferered large regions of the Somali tribeland, including the Ogaden, into the hands of the Ethiopian emperor. And in the Sudan the Mahdi has shown what Muslim insurgents can achieve.

In four separate campaigns between 1900 and 1904 British armies, requiring expensive support in the desert, fail to make any progress against Mohammed's guerrilla tactics. By 1910 the British government is ready to cuts its losses, withdrawing to the coastal regions. In the short term this means allowing the insurgents control of the interior, where they are successfully confined by the operations of a newly formed British force mounted on camels.

By 1920 the British are ready for a counter-offensive. Mohammed ibn Adbullah's base at Taleh is submitted to the latest in military technology - a bombing raid. He escapes to continue his resistance, but dies later in the same year of influenza.

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