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Islamic Courts chief confirms split with al-Shabaab
ASMARA, Eritrea Jan 11 2008 - The former executive head of Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has declared that a group of militants associated with the al-Shabaab guerrillas have withdrawn from his organization.
Sheikh Sharif, who now lives in Eritrea, told the Voice of America’s Somali-language service during a Thursday that “part of al-Shabaab” withdrew from the Islamic Courts.
But he said some al-Shabaab leaders are still part of the Islamist movement. He named Sheikh Hassan Turki, who commands the al-Shabaab wing in the southern Jubba regions, as still being part of the Islamic Courts.
Sheikh Sharif warned the dissident al-Shabaab wing not to label fellow Somalis as “non-Muslims.”
On Somalia’s government, Sheikh Sharif said he does not recognize the country’s UN-endorsed transitional federal government, which was established in 2004.
He dismissed reports that Somali Prime Minister Nur “Adde” Hassan Hussein contacted opposition members in Eritrea, who formed an umbrella organization last year called the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), with Sheikh Sharif as chairman.
The opposition leader did not rule out neutral peacekeeping troops to replace Ethiopian forces protecting the transitional government in Mogadishu, but indicated that such peacekeeping mission could only come after an agreement between the Somali government and the opposition.
He accused Ethiopian troops of massacring civilians in Somalia, including clan elder Ahmed Dirie, who was arrested by the Somali government in November and handed over to Ethiopia, according to reliable sources.
Sheikh Sharif said that Mr. Dirie died in Ethiopian custody. His claim could not be independently verified, but no one has heard from Mr. Dirie since his arrest.
The Islamic Courts ruled southern Somalia for six months in 2006, until Ethiopian troops intervened and routed them out of Mogadishu in January 2007.
The Somali government and its Ethiopian allies have faced near-daily attacks since, from a variety of sources, including Islamic Courts fighters, dissident al-Shabaab guerrillas and clan militias.
On an Internet posting, al-Shabaab distanced itself from the Eritrea-based Somali opposition group. Sheikh Sharif's response to al-Shabaab is the first since the latter issued online declarations condemning the ARS.
Source: Garowe Online