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Somali Government Appeals For Help To Fight Islamist 'Terror'

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Armed and veiled Somali women point their rifles during a rally in Mogadishu, November 2006. Somalia's weak government has pleaded for international help to fight alleged Islamist terrorism that it warned would have dire global consequences.

MOGADISHU, December 6, 2006 – Somalia's weak government has pleaded for international help to fight alleged Islamist terrorism that it warned would have dire global consequences.

With fears rising for all-out war between the transitional administration Somalia's powerful Islamist movement a day after fresh fighting was reported near the government seat, the cabinet urged the world not to ignore its call.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Council of Ministers said "all indications" pointed to Islamist involvement in two suicide car bombings that have rocked the government seat of Baidoa since September.

"The government draws the attention of the international community to these despicable acts of aggression and terrorism and calls upon it to condemn and act against this new wave of terror in the Horn," it said.

"If unchecked, it could plunge Somalia and the region into a devastating conflict that will have serious repercussions in the world," said the statement, issued in Baidoa, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Mogadishu.

"The council condemns these acts of terrorism and appeals to the community of nations to assist urgently to confront this security threat affecting not only the stability of Somalia but also the whole region," it said.

Many believe a full-scale war between the Ethiopian-backed government and the Islamists, believed to be supported by Eritrea, will draw in the arch-foe Horn of Africa neighbors and possibly spill into other countries.

The concern has been amplified by the suicide attacks that the government blames on the Islamists, some of whom are accused of links with Al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations.

The Islamists deny any terror links and disavow both the November 30 attack that killed nine people, and a failed September 18 attempt to assassinate Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed with a car bomb that killed 11.

But the Somali cabinet statement said "that all indications were that the Union of Islamic Courts was behind the attacks" and said it recognized them "as a prelude to the (Islamists) desperate military expansion towards Baidoa."

Peace talks between the two sides collapsed last month largely over the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia protecting the government against whom the Islamists have declared holy war.

The cabinet said the Islamist stance was a sign of their "unwillingness" to consider "peace, reconciliation and dialogue."

Information Minister Ali Jama said the government would not participate in new talks unless the Islamists, who seized Mogadishu in June and now control much of southern and central Somalia, ended their expansion.

"We have been in existence for two years, but we have not expanded by force because we believe in dialogue," he said. "They have been in existence for four months, but they have forcefully seized large swathes of territory.

"The way they are behaving, the way they are expanding by force, war might be inevitable," Jama told AFP, echoing comments made in Addis Ababa on Tuesday by Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.

At the weekend, the Islamist took the town of Dinsoor, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of Baidoa, but late Tuesday, the government claimed to have recaptured the area after heavy fighting.

There was no independent verification of the claim, which the Islamists denied, saying there had been no clashes and they still controlled the town.

Somalia has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre and a two-year-old government has failed to exert control across the nation of about 10 million people.

Source: AFP


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