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Warlords Surrender To Islamists

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Kismayo, September 27, 2006 – Somali warlords surrendered their guns and armored trucks to Islamic militia on Wednesday as the radical group strengthened its control of a strategic seaport.

About 300 fighters gathered in the grounds of the local administration headquarters in Kismayo, Somalia's third largest city, which fell under the control of the Islamic courts during the weekend.

Aden Hashi Ayro, the military chief of the Islamic group in Somalia, accepted the weapons, and told a watching crowd the militia would join his Islamic fighters "whose sole aim is to worship Allah and fight for the sake of Islam".

"Among our militia will be Somalis and foreigners," said Ayro, a suspected al-Qaeda collaborator who trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.

The fighters who handed over weapons were allied to the Islamic group, but were also part of a loose alliance of four warlords who controlled the Kismayo area.

Help Islamic militia wrest control

Among them was Mohamed Roble Jumale, a member of the Juba Valley alliance, who helped the Islamic militia wrest control of the capital, Mogadishu, in June.

The fighters surrendered their weapons along with 20 "technicals" - trucks mounted with guns - to the radical Islamic fighters.

The Islamic militia has swept through southern Somalia since taking over the capital in June. Its strict and often severe interpretation of Islam raises the specter of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia, and contrasts with the moderate Islam that has dominated Somali culture for centuries.

The United States has accused the Islamic group of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Thousands protested their presence

Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has portrayed Somalia as a battleground in his war on the US.

A curfew has been imposed on Kismayo, about 400km southwest of Mogadishu, by the Islamic militia that took control on Sunday without a fight, although thousands protested their presence the next day. Hundreds of women held another protest on Tuesday.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy. The Islamic group has stepped into the power vacuum.

Source: Sapa

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