On the 2nd of June a small force, zeribaed under Captain Malcolm McNeill, was attacked by the mullah's followers but repulsed after desperate fighting. Colonel Swayne thrice defeated the enemy, who lost 1200 men and 600 taken prisoners, and the mullah fled across the Haud, taking refuge with the Mijertin in Italian territory. In December 1901 the mullah was, however, once more raiding in the neighbourhood of Burao, Wars with the Mullah Mohammed Abdullah.and in May 1902 Colonel Swayne led another expedition against him, the Somali levies being strengthened by the 2nd King's African Rifles, consisting of Yaos from Nyasaland. Overcoming in a remarkable manner the difficulties of operating in the dry season, Colonel Swayne harried the mullah incessantly, and followed him across the Haud into the more fertile region of Mudug in Italian territory, permission so to do being granted by Italy. On the 6th of October, while marching through dense bush at Erigo, the British force was ambuscaded. The British lost 101 killed and 85 wounded, but put the enemy to flight. The mullah lost some 700 men and retreated to Galadi, west of Mudug, a place with ample water supplies. Colonel Swayne was not able to continue the pursuit, and returned to Berbera. It was then determined that in the further operations against the mullah the main advance should be from a base on the east coast of Italian Somaliland—the open roadstead of Obbia being chosen. The command was given to Brigadier-General W. H. Manning, and small numbers of British and Boer mounted infantry, Indian and African troops were employed, while an Abyssinian force held the line of the Webi Shebeli. Manning advanced from Obbia in February 1903, and in March got in touch with the northern column, the line of communication stretching over 500 m. The mullah was west of this line in the neighbourhood of Galadi. The wells at Galadi were occupied by the British early in April without opposition. A reconnoitring force of 500 men under Lieut.-Colonel A. S. Cobbe (who had gained the V.C. at Erigo) was pushed west to Gumburu, and came into contact with the enemy. A detachment of this force, consisting of 200 Yaos and Sikhs under Lieut.-Colonel Plunket, was attacked on the 17th of April and overwhelmed. Of the whole party only 40 Yaos, of whom 36 were wounded, escaped; 10 British officers being among the slain. Meantime from Bohotle a force had advanced under Major Gough to Daratole, a spot not far from Gumburu. It had a stiff fight on the 23rd of April and was obliged to fall back. After these events the Obbia line of communication was closed up, and Manning's force concentrated at Bohotle. The mullah now broke away to the north, and, crossing the line of the British communication, established himself in the Nogal district.
Another campaign being deemed necessary, reinforcements bringing the fighting force up to 7000 men were sent out, and Major-General Sir C. C. Egerton assumed supreme command, Manning retaining command of the first column. In October 1903 a new forward movement was begun, the mullah being still in the eastern Nogal, while he had also seized the Italian seaport of Illig, north of Obbia. In a pitched battle fought on the 10th of January 1904 at Jidballi in the Nogal country the enemy were routed, losing over 1000 men in killed alone, while the British loss in killed and wounded was 58. The mullah and his chief adviser, a Haji Sudi, formerly an interpreter on a British warship, were not at the battle, and with his Ali Gheri followers he now fled north across the Sorl, apparently intending, if further pressed to retreat to Illig. This port was accordingly for a short time (April 1904) occupied by a British naval force. By May the mullah had been driven out of the British protectorate and became a refugee among the Mijertin. It was decided therefore to abandon offensive operations. In 1905 the Italians effected an arrangement apparently satisfactory to all parties (see § Italian Somaliland).
For some three years the mullah remained quiescent, but in 1908 he quarrelled with the Mijertins and in 1909 he was again raiding tribes in the British protectorate. Evacuation of the Interior.The British government (the Asquith cabinet) came to the conclusion that another expedition against the mullah would be useless; that they must either build a railway, make roads and effectively occupy the whole of the protectorate, or else abandon the interior completely. The latter course was decided upon, and during the first months of 1910 the advanced posts were withdrawn and the British administration confined to the coast towns. In support of this decision it was urged that it was no good pursuing people whom it was impossible to catch, that the isolated posts in the interior had not been able to protect the friendly tribes; and that the semi-desert nature of the country did not justify any attempt at economic development. (The proposal to build a railway from Zaila or Berbera to Harrar, which would have competed with the French line from Jibuti for the trade of southern Abyssinia, had been vetoed on grounds of general policy.) Before the withdrawal arrangements—more or less ineffective—were made for arming and organizing the tribes in the protectorate in their own defence.
French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis) lies at the entrance to the Red Sea. The sea frontier extends from Ras Dumeira on the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, a little north of Perim Island, to Ras Gurmarle, a few miles south of the Gulf of Tajura. The protectorate is bounded N. by the Danakil country; S. by British Somaliland; W. by the Harrar province of Abyssinia. It extends inland at its greatest depth about 130 m.