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Somalia to become Islamic state and haven for terrorists as Al Qaeda linked group takes control of Mogadishu

June 6, 2006

US 'worried by' Somali Islamists
Gunman Somalis hope the Islamist victory in Mogadishu will bring peace
The United States has expressed its concern after an Islamist militia said it had taken control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

A State Department spokesman did not comment directly but pointedly said: "We don't want to see Somalia turn into a safe haven for foreign terrorists".

The US was accused of backing the warlords defeated by the Islamists.

The Islamic militia says it has now advanced to within 20km of Jowhar, the town where the defeated warlords fled.

In Mogadishu, crowds have attended two rallies in the north after their clan elders warned the Islamists not to attack Jowhar.

The elders also said they would set up a court which would be independent of the main Union of Islamic Courts.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says some people have been returning to their homes after fleeing during the fighting, but with a stand-off developing in the north of the city there are now fears of more clashes.

However, a senior Somali MP told the BBC that the takeover could be a step towards ending 15 years of anarchy.

'New era'

Former Information Minister Mohamud Jama told the BBC's Network Africa programme that having a single group in control of Mogadishu for the first time since 1991 could make negotiations easier for the transitional government based in Baidoa, 250km (155 miles) north-west of the capital.

Mr Jama also suggested that the Islamic Courts might improve the security situation in the capital.

Map of Mogadishu

African Union chairman Denis Sassou Nguesso from the Republic of Congo, on a visit to Washington, has indirectly criticised the US for its support of the warlords. "We think, and what we told President [George W] Bush, that most important is to establish a government that must help the Somali people to have a real government," he said.

It's good to see conflict resolved but I don't want to celebrate a temporary victory
Hawa Ismail Qorey,
Mogadishu housewife
In pictures: Militia 'victory'

"The presence of various groups, the warlords, is not a permanent solution."

The US has neither confirmed nor denied persistent reports that it backed the warlords, who this year united to form the Anti-Terror Alliance.

Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi has said his government wants to begin dialogue with the Islamic Courts.

On Monday, he sacked four powerful Mogadishu-based warlords who had been serving as ministers, as they were losing the battle for the capital.

Union of Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told the AFP news agency that he was ready for dialogue, saying: "This is a new era for Mogadishu."

This year's clashes in the capital have been the most serious for more than a decade, with some 330 people killed and about 1,500 injured in the past month.

Sharia law concerns

Mogadishu residents gave a cautious welcome to their new rulers.

"They said they would work with residents to improve security in the capital," Ali Abdikadir told Reuters news agency.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

"This is good news for us because the warlords were always engaged in battles. We are looking forward to a life without fighting."

But some seemed unconvinced that the weeks of bloodshed were really over.

"It's good to see conflict resolved but I don't want to celebrate a temporary victory," housewife Hawa Ismail Qorey told AFP. "Mogadishu is witnessing political history but it may be good or it may be bad."

And others expressed concern about what the future might hold with Islamists who want to introduce Sharia law in control.

"What I am afraid of is if they interfere with the education system and bring religion by force to the schools," Asha Idris, a mother of five, told AFP.

On Saturday, UN aid workers pulled out of Jowhar, some 90km (56 miles) north of Mogadishu, in case the fighting spread there.

The violence began earlier this year when warlords who had divided Mogadishu into fiefdoms united to form the Anti-Terrorism Alliance to tackle the Islamic Courts, who they accused of sheltering foreign al-Qaeda militants.

The Islamic Courts deny this. They were originally set up in Mogadishu as a grassroots movement by businessmen to establish some law and order in a city without any judicial system.

The head of the BBC's Somali service described the rise of the Islamic Courts as a popular uprising.

Militia vow to make Somalia Islamic state
Tue Jun 6, 2006 2:21 PM BST

By Mohamed Ali Bile

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Islamic militia vowed to turn Somalia into a religious state on Tuesday, pushing north to take more territory after winning a three-month battle for Mogadishu.

But thousands of Mogadishu residents protested against the takeover and defeated warlords said they would fight back. Clan elders warned the Islamic side against more advances.

Fighters loyal to sharia courts seized the lawless capital on Monday from a self-styled anti-terrorism coalition of warlords widely believed to be backed by Washington.

Some 350 people, mostly civilians, have died since February in fierce fighting for the capital interspersed by tense lulls. The United Nations says about 1,500 civilians were wounded in the close-quarter battles using mortars and anti-aircraft guns.

It was the first time the warlords had been dislodged from Mogadishu since ousting former ruler Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

"Until we get the Islamic state, we will continue with the Islamic struggle in Somalia," Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of Mogadishu Islamic courts, told a rally of hundreds of people.

"This is a long Islamic struggle and it will continue until the whole country comes under sharia law," Fuad Ahmed, a militiaman loyal to the Islamic side, told Reuters. "We are ready to shed our blood in order for that struggle to succeed."

Supporters of the warlord coalition packed the shattered Benadir stadium in the north of the capital in a counter rally to protest against the Islamic victory.

"We have to continue fighting the terrorists in Mogadishu. We will remain in Mogadishu," Warlord Bashir Raghe, who lost control of an airstrip and a port in March, told Reuters.

"The Islamic courts cannot dislodge us from here."

Warlord Muse Sudi Yalahow, who lost the strategic town of Balad on Sunday, was also at the rally but did not speak.

Somalia's interim prime minister, Mohamed Ali Gedi, congratulated the Islamic side on their victory over warlords who many Somalis believe tried to undermine the government.

"They were hurting reconciliation, stabilisation and pacification of Somalia," Gedi told Radio France Internationale.

"All those forces who joined their efforts together were the pillars of the victory and the government has congratulated them," he said.


The Islamic fighters advanced on Tuesday towards the warlord stronghold of Jowhar, about 90 km (56 miles) north of Mogadishu.

"Our forces are in the village of Qalimoy, 20 km south of Jowhar. We are just waiting for orders from our leaders to capture it," militia leader Siyad Mohamed, who is allied to the Islamic courts, told Reuters from Balad on the road to Jowhar.

Ali Nur, a warlord coalition militiaman, said clan elders had threatened to mass militia against the Islamic forces if they attacked Jowhar.

Nur said the Islamic side told the warlords to hand over weapons but their fighters were preparing an assault to regain lost Mogadishu strongholds, notably the Kilometre Four area.

"We are preparing ourselves to repossess our territory. ... We have close to 100 technicals," he said referring to pick-up trucks mounted with heavy guns.

But Kilometre Four resident Fahran Gure said checkpoints set up across Mogadishu had come down.

"The coalition forces have moved closer to Kilometre Four but I don't think they will clash with the Islamic courts militia because elders have intervened," he said.

"We feel there is a big change, peace is in the air, no gunshots can be heard. It is calm, businesses are fully operational. People are now moving freely everywhere."

The Islamic victory prompted concern in Washington which fears Somalia could become a haven for terrorists.

The United States has refused to discuss persistent reports it is covertly funnelling $100,000 a month or more to the warlords but has said it will work with anyone combating terrorism.

(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Nairobi)


Thousands Rally in Somali Capital

Tuesday June 6, 2006 8:31 PM

AP Photo NAI102


Associated Press Writer

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Thousands of chanting Somalis took to the streets of Mogadishu on Tuesday in the aftermath of the takeover of the capital by extremist Islamic militiamen.

Two rallies were held just miles apart, with some demonstrating for the Islamic Courts Union and others calling for the militiamen to get out. The advance of the Courts Union, which has alleged links to al-Qaida, came despite U.S. support for a secular alliance of warlords.

The militia's growing power has raised fears that Somalia could fall under the sway of al-Qaida. But Tuesday's protests show it may be difficult to keep control of the capital, and that the Courts Union likely still has to negotiate with the clan leaders who have run the city for more than a decade.

The city's largest and historically strongest clan, the Abgals, came out in force Tuesday and drew about 3,000 people to the northern part of the city, shouting "We don't need Islamic deception!" and "We don't want Islamic courts, we want peace!"

"If the so-called Islamic courts don't stop invading our territories ... the country will return to civil war," said Sheik Ahmed Kadare, an Abgal clan elder. The clan did not give a timetable for a potential attack.

Somalia has been without a real government since largely clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, dividing this nation of 8 million into rival fiefdoms.

The Abgal rally appeared to be an attempt to redefine the conflict in the capital as a competition among clans, rather than a religious battle, to build support for continued fighting if the Islamic militants do not retreat.

The Abgal leaders promised to set up new, clan-based courts in northern Mogadishu to replace those that the Islamic extremists have operated in recent years to raise money and goodwill for the militiamen's bid to take over the country.

The Islamic militia kept defensive positions about a mile from the Abgal protest and did not try to stop it. It held its own rally nearby, vowing to keep fighting until Islamic law was enforced.

"Until we get the Islamic state, we will continue with the Islamic struggle in Somalia," Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of Islamic Courts Union, told the crowd of about 500.

The Courts Union has said a government based on Islamic law will restore order to Somalia, and accused the secular alliance of warlords of being puppets of Washington and working for the CIA. Members of the alliance - most of whom were on the run after Monday's defeat - said the Courts Union had links to terrorists.

U.S. officials said recently that Islamic leaders in Mogadishu are sheltering three al-Qaida leaders indicted in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The same al-Qaida cell is believed responsible for the 2002 suicide bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya, which killed 15 people, and a simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner over Kenya.

The U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, have confirmed cooperating with the secular warlords. The Bush administration has not confirmed or denied giving money to the alliance, saying only that it supports those who fight terrorism.

The battle between the militia and the secular alliance had been intensifying in recent months, with more than 300 people killed and 1,700 wounded - many of them civilians caught in the crossfire of grenades, machine guns and mortars.

The two sides began competing for influence in earnest after a U.N.-backed interim government began to gain international recognition. But the government has not even been able to enter the capital because of the violence. Instead, it's operating out of Baidoa, 155 miles from Mogadishu.

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at