|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Fears Of Further Bloodshed In Somalia
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a hard-line cleric designated a terrorist by the United States for suspected links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, said his militiamen -- who already control swathes of southern Somalia -- have been invited to set up an Islamic court in the central town of Galkayo.
"The Islamic courts have been invited by the people of Galkayo to bring peace and harmony. There is no talk of war or violence," Aweys told Shabelle Radio from his hometown in central Galgudud region.
But Adde Muse, leader of the north-eastern Somali semi-autonomous region of Puntland and who controls half of Galkayo, vowed to repel the advance.
"The aggression by the Islamists will be repelled. Nobody invited them. They are here to destabilize Puntland," Muse told local radio channels.
He has deployed hundreds of fighters and battlewagons -- pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns -- in the township in anticipation of an attack.
The other half of Galkayo, the capital of central Mudug region, is ruled by elders allied to the Islamists, who control the capital Mogadishu and whose growing influence has threatened the authority of the transitional government based in the south-central town of Baidoa.
"It is a religious obligation to pass the message of Allah to every place in Somalia. The people of Galkayo are happy to see us but the regional officers of Puntland deployed their fighters to the town," Aweys said.
He spoke a day after the Islamic militiamen seized control of the Beledweyne, the capital of Hiraan region, from an Ethiopia-backed, government-appointed governor.
The influence of the Islamists rose in June after they evicted US-backed warlords from the capital and other outposts in southern Somalia and made clear their intention to control the whole of the Horn of Africa nation.
This aim, and the feared advance to the government base in Baidoa, compelled Ethiopia to deploy troops to protect the government that was appointed in Kenya in late 2004 after more than two years of peace talks and that was seen as the best chance for the lawless country to begin reunifying.
The United Nations, the US and other Western countries have warned that any interference by Somalia's neighbors – arch-foes Ethiopia and Eritrea -- might scupper efforts to achieve lasting peace in the country.
The Islamists have refused to participate in Arab League-mediated peace talks in Khartoum until foreign troops pull out. They have also denied accusations they harbor extremists and foreign fighters.
Somali has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre.
A total of 14 internationally backed initiatives had earlier failed to produce a government. Analysts blamed the failures on unruly warlords, who obtained weapons and other forms of support from neighboring countries despite a UN arms embargo.