|Wanted terrorist named in key post|
|SOMALI Islamists have named a cleric wanted by the United States for alleged links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network as the head of their new "parliament" overnight. Officials said Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys - a wanted "terrorist" in the United States - had been chosen to lead the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) which will serve as a parliament for regions under the courts' control. The appointment came as the Islamic courts shore up their control of Mogadishu and outlying towns following the dramatic victory of their militia fighters over a US-backed warlord alliance in Mogadishu earlier this month.|
Sheikh Aweys founded the capital's first Islamic court and is believed to have orchestrated the Islamic takeover. He has been operating in the central Galgudud region where he has set up sharia or Islamic tribunals. He has been designated a "terrorist" by the United States and is subject to US sanctions for alleged ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. His suspected terror links were a key reason Washington backed the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), which was formed in February by warlords who say the Islamists are harbouring extremists.
A senior official who attended a meeting of Somalia's Joint Islamic Courts in Mogadishu's Ramadan hotel today said 88 delegates had been chosen to sit in the CIC, which will legislate and oversee the courts in the Horn of Africa nation. "The former head of the JIC, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, will be the chairman of the council's executive committee, which will be in charge of day to day running of the Islamic courts," a senior cleric said.
|Somalis Expect US, Ethiopian Intervention|
|IOL - MOGADISHU Ethiopia and the US are expected to intervene militarily in Somalia especially after the Joint Islamic Courts (JIC) fighters have seized full control of the capital Mogadishu following four months of fighting with a US-backed warlord alliance, well-placed sources told IslamOnline.net on Tuesday, June 6. "Ethiopia has put its troops along the borders with Somalia on maximum alert and might push them into its Horn of Africa neighbor to stem further advances by the JIC fighters," said the sources, which spoke only on condition of anonymity. The Ethiopian government will try everything in its power to prevent the JIC fighters from capturing the strategic central city of Jowhar, some 90 kilometers north of the capital, they added.|
The JIC announced Monday, June 6, seizing control of nearly all of the lawless capital and a key supply line for the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) on its northern outskirts. In a statement read over local radio stations, the chairman of the city's Joint Islamic courts, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, said 15 years of warlord control of Mogadishu was over and urged residents to accept the new leadership. "We are not against any group and will deal with the outside world in a manner that takes the interests of our country and people into account first," he said.
At least 347 people have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded, many of them civilians, in fierce battles between the JIC fighters and the ARPCT since February.
|More on the seige and conquest of Balad|
|Somali Islamic fighters seized a key town in the north yesterday after heavy clashes with gunmen allied to a warlord alliance, expanding their territory outside the lawless capital.|
Columns of heavily armed Islamic fighters surrounded and pounded Balad, about 30km north of Mogadishu, as militiamen loyal to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) fled to safety, witnesses and militia commanders said. "After brief fighting, with the help of Allah and support of the people of Balad we have fully captured the town," Moalim Hashi, an Islamic militia commander said.
"Balad is now safe and secure and is under the control of the Islamic courts. The people have been liberated from the misdeeds of the ARPCT," added Hashi.
Independent sources have confirmed the take-over of the strategic town despite massive reinforcement from Mogadishu-based warlords led by Mohamed Afrah Qanyare and Issa Botan Alin, who rushed to the city with dozens of trucks mounted with machine guns and hundreds of fighters. Witnesses said several had people died - the exact figure was unclear - when the Islamic militia stormed the outpost, pounding it with artillery, rockets and machineguns.
They said the Islamic forces had captured 72 alliance fighters and had freed 18 prisoners from the Balad jail. There were also reports of massive defections to the Islamic militia's ranks.
The Islamists have been making steady gains in recent days, capturing various villages north of Mogadishu on Saturday amid artillery duels that killed at least 19 people. Since the war erupted in February, at least 332 people have been killed and more than 1,500 injured, many of them civilians.
Unfazed by dwindling battlefield fortunes, warlord Bashir Raghe Shirar, another key member of the ARPCT, vowed to fight on until they routed the Islamists. "We will continue fighting because Mogadishu is full of fugitive foreign fighters supported by few Islamic extremist elements. We want them out of this city," he said.
The ARPCT, formed in February, has reportedly received financial and intelligence support from the United States to help fight the Islamic courts, accused of habouring foreign fighters and of having links with groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The courts, which have declared a holy war against the alliance, deny the accusations and claim the warlords are fighting for the "enemy of Islam". The United States has refused to confirm or deny its support for the ARPCT. But US officials and informed Somali sources have said that Washington has given money to the ARPCT, one of several groups it is working with to curb what it says is a growing threat from radical Islamists in Somalia.
|US moves diplomat critical of Somali warlord aid|
|USA 30 May. 06 ( Sh.M.Network) top U.S. official handling Somalia has been transferred from his job after criticising payments to warlords that are said to be fuelling some of Mogadishu's worst-ever fighting, diplomats said on Tuesday. Fellow analysts in the close-knit community of Somalia- watchers in Nairobi said the U.S. State Department transferred Michael Zorick, formerly Somali political affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, to the Chad embassy after he spoke out. |
The move exposes a rift inside the U.S. government on how to handle Somalia -- whether efforts to build peace should come before counter-terrorism -- and the effect Washington's perceived role has had in inflaming fighting there.
At least 320 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the anarchic city since February in battles between the warlords, who dubbed themselves the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, and Islamist militias.
"He really decided to take up the battle. He realised very well what he was doing," a Western diplomat who is close to Zorick and asked not to be identified, told Reuters. Various other diplomats involved with Somalia, including those from Washington's allies, have expressed frustration at U.S. aid to warlords which they say has undermined Somalia's weak interim government, seen as the best hope for peace there.
Zorick could not be reached for comment and e-mails sent to his State Department address, which had previously worked, were returned as undeliverable.
Analysts say Washington's widely believed links with the warlords have had the contrary effect of rallying Islamist groups and increasing support for them among Somalis, who are not usually strong supporters of radical Islam. The analysts say it has also strengthened the influential Mogadishu Sharia courts -- which have brought a semblance of order to parts of the lawless country -- against the interim government.
Zorick was part of the peace process in Kenya to create the Somali government, formed in late 2004 in the 14th such attempt since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. The new administration has made little progress and stays in the south-central town of Baidoa because it is too weak to move to the capital. The pitched battles in Mogadishu have emphasised its lack of control.
The United States has never confirmed its support for the warlords, but has made clear it will work with anyone it considers an ally in its counter-terrorism fight. Ambassador Bellamy said last week the United States was being "wrongly blamed" for fighting in Somalia and should be credited for spending millions in aid and peace work there.
Washington has invested considerable military and intelligence resources in the Horn of Africa, starting with a base in Djibouti, and is known to operate in tandem with local security services and Ethiopia in particular. Somalia is a particular U.S. worry because of its total lawlessness, and the fact planners of the 1998 blasts at U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and a 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya operated from there.
|Fighting in the shadows in Somalia|
|Mogadishu is a place most Americans would rather forget. During the 1990s, the "Black Hawk Down" debacle symbolized the dangers of dabbling in far-off lands we don't understand. |
Last week, for the first time since the early 1990s, much of the Somali capital was engulfed in bloody fire fights. By all accounts, a jihadist militia of the so-called Islamic Courts Union was gaining ground on an alliance of secular warlords who have received U.S. backing. Observers say the Union has been winning adherents by casting its enemies as stooges of Washington, especially since the U.S.-friendly warlords formed a group called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism last winter. The revived fighting inside Somaliaa lawless state on the Horn of Africa with no central governmenthas raised new questions about America's global war on terror, which is being fought mostly out of the public eye.
|Four Somalia Government Ministers Resign|
|In a severe blow to efforts to establish a functioning government in the Horn of Africa country of Somalia, four elected ministers, all based in the capital Mogadishu, have announced that they are quitting the government. |
Yalahow, Qanyare, and their two colleagues are powerful factional leaders in the capital and senior-ranking members of the newly-formed, 11-member anti-terror group, the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. The group's aim, they say, is to rid the country of Muslim extremists, who are attempting to turn Somalia into another Afghanistan.
But many Somalis say they believe the real reason why the four factional leaders are pulling out of the government is because they are angry over recent comments made by President Yusuf. President Yusuf accused the United States of funding the anti-terror alliance, adding that Washington should be working with interim government leaders to bring stability to Somalia, not giving money to warlords to chase down terrorists.
|Killings and beheadings™ mark Islamist offensive in Somalia|
|Islamist gunmen overran a compound held by a United States-backed warlord alliance outside the lawless Somali capital on Wednesday, killing seven fighters and decapitating several, witnesses said.|
Islamic militia targeted the base north of the city in the latest flare-up in fighting since the two sides began observing an informal truce on Sunday after eight days of pitched street battles in Mogadishu, they said.
In addition to those killed, at least nine fighters were wounded and a "battlewagon" -- a pick-up mounted with a heavy machine gun -- was seized from the compound about 20km north of the capital, they said.
"Seven people were killed and a battlewagon was taken by the Islamic court militia," said one of the fighters loyal to warlord Mohamed Omar Habeb Dheere, who were forced to abandon the compound after the attack.
"A few were killed by gunfire and the others were beheaded after they were captured," said a fighter from a non-allied militia, who was near the base when the attack took place.
Dheere -- a member of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism -- was not at the compound at the time of the attack, they said.
The new fatalities bring the death toll from the most recent surge in violence between the alliance and the courts in and around Mogadishu to nearly 140 and came as thousands rallied for peace in the city.
More than 2 000 people attended the Islamist-sponsored demonstration in southern Mogadishu, denouncing the alliance and its foreign backers.
"The people of Mogadishu and the courts were equally attacked by the so-called alliance in the recent fighting," said Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairperson of an umbrella group that represents the city's 11 Sharia law courts.
"The alliance is not a national institution but the creation of a foreign country," he said to cheers from the crowd that gathered under tight security provided by Islamic militia in southern Mogadishu's Howlwadag neighbourhood.
Ahmed did not name the country in question, but his comments were a clear reference to the US, which has been accused of funding the alliance as part of its broader war on terrorism.
The US has declined to comment on its backing of the alliance but US officials have told Agence France-Presse the alliance has received US money and is one of several groups they are working with to contain a rise of radical Islam in Somalia.
|Islamists break truce, warlord compound overrun|
|Interestingly, the Beeb sidebar sez that the al-Qaeda contingent is getting weapons from Eritrea. This may be due to the anti-Ethiopian orientation of al-Itihaad al-Islamiyyah (they want to gnaw off the Muslim part of Ethiopia) or the weapons may just be getting routed through there from more powerful allies like say Turabi's followers in Sudan.|
At least five people have been killed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, when Islamist gunmen attacked a warlord, breaking a three-day truce. The attack coincided with a rally intended to call for peace, following the death of at least 140 people.
Some civil society groups boycotted the event, saying it had been "hijacked".
The US says it has not violated the arms embargo on Somalia but has said it would work with those who can help "prevent Somalia becoming a safe haven for terrorists".
British international development minister Hilary Benn, who is in Somalia on a previously unannounced visit, said he was aware of allegations the US was funding warlords. "I haven't seen any evidence myself," he said.
|Warlords reinforce fighters in Mogadishu|
|Witnesses say warlords have deployed hundreds of fighters in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, to battle rivals from the Islamic courts as violence raged for the seventh day. Abdi Hassan Quybdid, a top member of the United States-backed alliance of warlords has deployed a heavily-armed militia and 12 battle wagons . His commanders say Mr Quybdid is preparing to mount a further assault on gunmen loyal to the Islamic courts. |
Saturday's pitched battles have killed at least 11 people in the northern district of Sisi. That brings the death toll to at least 111 since fighting between the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) and Union of Islamic courts erupted last Sunday. Thousands of terrified civilians have fled the battle zone in the Sisi neighbourhood to safer areas as families report more civilians unaccounted for. "This is the time to save the people of Mogadishu and stop the bloodshed," Ahmed Muhamoud, a top commander in the Quybdid militia, said.
In addition to the volatile Sisi, witnesses say rival militias have pounded each other with heavy artillery, mortar shells and rockets in Huriwa, Waharaade and Yaqshid districts in north and south of the blood-soaked capital. Medical sources say at least 250 people, mostly civilians, have been wounded. "The warring sides are not targeting civilians directly, but most people are killed by stray bullets, mortars or heavy machine guns coming into their shanty houses, penetrating the poorly constructed walls," Mohamed Hirsi, an elderly man who fled from Sisi, said.
|Ceasefire declared in Mogadishu|
|Islamic militia and a self-styled anti-terrorism alliance of warlords in Somalia's capital declared an apparent truce on Tuesday after fighting that has killed around 60 people, both sides said.|
The battle is the third this year between the two sides. They have been among the most furious fights in the lawless capital, Mogadishu, in years.
At least 103 people, mostly civilians, were wounded in the latest clash, which took place in the run-down Siisii area.
"Following requests from traditional elders and activists and growing concern from the general public we have decided to cease fighting," Sheik Sharif Ahmed, chairperson of the Mogadishu Islamic Courts, told reporters in the coastal city.
The warlords said they would stop the fighting, which has raged since Sunday, as long as the Islamic militia did.
"If they have stopped fighting, then on our side it is also over," Hussein Gutale Rage, a warlord coalition spokesperson, told reporters.
Many diplomats believe the clashes have been fuelled by US support for the warlords, who are unpopular among many citizens because their militias have victimised them or extorted money from them at checkpoints for years.
But this year's fighting in Mogadishu, a city awash with AK-47s and heavy military hardware, has been the worst for years. Two battles in February and March killed 90 people.
Witnesses said dozens had been killed.
"Nearly 60 have died so far since the battle began on Sunday," Abdifatah Abdikadir, a resident living near the Kilometre 4 area of Mogadishu, told reporters by telephone.
"Most parts of the capital are burning," Abubakar Hassan said.
The violence is a setback to plans by an interim Somali government - the 14th attempt to restore central rule in 15 years - to move from its provincial base Baidoa to the capital.
It is also impeding relief efforts in a nation where nearly two million people rely on emergency food aid. Around Mogadishu, thousands of internal refugees live in squalor in the war-scarred shells of former government buildings.
Fighters on the Islamic militia side are linked to Mogadishu's powerful sharia courts and funded by local businessmen. Coalition leaders and diplomats say they include some al-Qaeda-trained fighters.
Washington has long viewed mainly Muslim Somalia as a potential haven for Islamic militants, and it is thought by many both inside and outside the nation to be sending money to the Mogadishu warlords as part of its counter-terrorism strategy.
Even Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf said last week Washington was backing the warlords, whose new coalition dubs itself the "Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism".
US officials have mainly avoided comment.
|Mogadishu tensions soar as Islamists declare jihad on warlords|
|Tension soared in the capital of lawless Somalia as Mogadishu's powerful Islamic courts declared holy war on a militia alliance widely believed to be backed by the United States. |
With many city residents already convinced new hostilities are imminent between the rival factions, Muslim clerics urged the destruction of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT).
At a demonstration attended by hundreds in southern Mogadishu after Friday prayers, Sheikh Nur Ollow, an imam and senior Islamic court figure, told the crowd it was time to fight the warlords whose militias make up the alliance.
"It is time to fight the unholy elements that are sabotaging peace efforts and serving the interests of non-Somalis who could not care less about our well-being, culture and religion," he said.
"It is time to help those who want peace and harmony among Somalis and the teachings of the commands of Allah and the words of the Prophet," Ollow said. "We will not be governed by a few warlords financed by the enemy of Islam."
A second cleric affiliated with the courts, Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim Sulley, echoed those comments and went further, informing the crowd that battling the warlords was a religious obligation.
"As it says in the Koran, the fight against those who are promoting hostility and fighting against Islam is a holy war," he said. "Any war against the warlords is a holy war and a sacrifice in the name of Allah.
"Let us eliminate these warlords and set up a peaceful administration supported by the vast majority of people in Mogadishu," Sulley said, prompting the crowd to chant angry slogans denouncing the warlords.
"Down with the agents of America and down with agents promoting Satanic teaching," they yelled, according to an AFP correspondent on the scene.
The bellicose comments were clearly directed at the ARPCT, which was founded in February by Mogadishu warlords opposed to the growing influence of the courts that they accuse of hosting Islamic extremists and training terrorists.
An official in the alliance, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the crowd that cheered the imams' call for holy war was "misguided" and unaware of his group's policies, which he claimed had huge backing.
"They are misguided and misinformed," the official said. "The alliance is supported by most people in Mogadishu."
At least 52 people were killed and hundreds displaced in Mohgadishu in March when the two sides squared off in the bloodiest clashes since the country collapsed into anarchy with the 1991 ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.
The alliance is seen by many here as a Washington-backed, anti-Muslim instrument of the US led war on terrorism and fears of new pitched battles between it and gunmen loyal to the courts have skyrocketed in recent days.
The two sides have been re-positioning their forces and stockpiling weapons as they gird for renewed conflict and thousands of terrified Mogadishu residents have fled their homes to avoid the expected violence.
Underscoring those fears, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) on Friday called on both sides not to target civilians, particularly reporters, if and when they do battle.
|Thousands flee Mogadishu as war approaches|
| Rival militias are gearing up for new clashes to win control of the Somali capital, sending thousands of terrified people fleeing from their homes, Mogadishu residents said Wednesday.|
Gunmen loyal to Islamic courts and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) who fought pitched battles in the city last month have re-armed themselves for what residents fear may be all-out war, they said.
"Some people are very much terrified and they are leaving their houses since most are sure violence will erupt," said Daudi Yakubu Mohamed, a taxi driver who has so far ferried 23 fleeing families from enclaves in southern Mogadishu.
Businessman Ahmed Ismail Abukar said dozens of terrified families have fled the volatile Daynile district in southern Mogadishu to Hamerwein district in the central part of the city inhabited by less belligerent clans.
"People are leaving their homes and taking refuge in relatively peaceful neighbourhoods that are not dominated by Islamic courts or the alliance," Abukar told AFP.
Several hundred extended families, accounting for more than 2,000 people, have left their homes seeking safety as militiamen have deployed in various parts of the city, residents said.
Arms dealers in Mogadishu's Bakara and Argentine markets said their stocks have been emptied in recent days as the two sides boost weapons and ammunition supplies in anticipation of major clashes.
"The market is dry and demand is high," said one trader, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
At least 52 people were killed and hundreds displaced in Mohgadishu in March when the two sides squared off in the bloodiest clashes since the country collapsed into anarchy with the 1991 ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.
The ARPCT, seen by many here as a US-backed anti-Muslim instrument, was formed in February with the stated goal of battling the threat of terrorism posed by the alleged growing influence of Islamic extremists around Mogadishu.
The city's powerful Islamic courts, which provide a semblance of stability in the parts of the city they control, deny US and alliance allegations that they are harboring Al-Qaeda operatives and training foreign fighters.
Washington has refused to comment on claims of its direct involvement in Somalia but on Wednesday issued a statement through the US embassy in Nairobi appealing for calm in Mogadishu.
"The United States calls upon all Somalis to work together to encourage restraint and calm in the city," the embassy said in its first public comments about Somalia in several months.
"Provocations and fresh outbreaks of violence in Mogadishu can serve only the interests of extremist elements," it said, urging that all differences be resolved through dialogue and the support of Somalia's transitional government.
On Tuesday, the prime minister of that government, Ali Mohamed Gedi, said he had struck a deal with the United States to patrol Somali territorial waters to curb rampant piracy and stem terrorist threats.
But Washington later denied any such agreement existed, while acknowledging that the US and Somali government officials were discussing counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts.