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Somali Islamists: We Will Bring In Foreign Help
Mogadishu, Somalia, November 28, 2006 – Somalia's powerful Islamist movement said on Tuesday it would summon Muslim fighters from around the world to join its fight if the United Nations authorizes a proposed peacekeeping mission.
The warning came as the United States, which accuses the Islamists of links to al-Qaeda, prepares to introduce a UN Security Council resolution that would approve the force and ease a 1992 arms embargo on Somalia to support it.
"If the arms embargo on Somalia is lifted, we will invite all Islamists around the world to Somalia and they will fight by our side," said Islamist security chief Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siyad Indoa'adhe.
"We shall not hesitate if the UN Security Council lifts the arms embargo and I am sure more Islamist fighters will mass in Somalia," he told a crowd of more than 10 000 in Mogadishu, calling for holy war against neighboring Ethiopia.
At the same rally, the Islamists claimed to have exchanged heavy artillery fire in central Somalia with Ethiopian troops protecting the weak Somali government and its allies in the semi-autonomous enclave of Puntland.
The pledge to invite foreign Islamist fighters into Somalia raises the specter of a major, sustained and brutal conflict that many fear could already engulf the entire Horn of Africa region.
Already, UN arms experts say that seven mainly Arab nations and Lebanon's militant Hezbollah movement are arming and supporting the Islamists, including Ethiopia's arch-foe Eritrea.
Three countries, including Ethiopia, are backing the Somali government, they say, but stress that the Islamists are receiving substantially more and more sophisticated weaponry in arms shipments that violate the embargo.
In a report issued this month, they said outside support could allow the Islamists to turn Somalia into an "Iraq-type situation" with their forces engaging those of the feeble government using guerrilla and terrorist tactics.
The US has designated the Islamists' supreme leader a "terrorist" and accuses elements in the movement of harboring suspects in the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
According to diplomats, Washington intends to introduce a resolution at the Security Council on Wednesday that would ease the arms embargo to allow plans for a regional East African peacekeeping force to deploy to Somalia.
On Monday, a respected international think tank, the Crisis Group, warned that passage of the resolution would likely plunge Somalia into all-out war with devastating implications for the greater Horn of Africa.