Sunday, September 09, 2007

Somali News Update: Opposition Forces Criticize the US; Resistance Predicts All-Out Liberation War, etc.

Somali opposition conference criticises US

ASMARA (Reuters) - A conference of Somali opposition figures criticised the United States on Saturday for allowing regional power Ethiopia to keep troops in their homeland.

Critics of the Somali interim government and its Ethiopian military allies say Washington's tacit blessing enabled Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to move thousands of soldiers into Somalia last year.

They helped drive an Islamist sharia courts movement out of Mogadishu at the New Year, and have been protecting the Somali government against insurgents since then.

"(Delegates) expressed their deep concern about the international community's, especially the United States', continuing silence and indifference to the Ethiopian occupation," said a spokesman for the Somali opposition conference in Eritrea.

"There's been an escalation of violence in Mogadishu," Zakariya Mahamud Abdi added in a briefing for reporters in Asmara, predicting "all-out war" in Somalia could come soon.

Gun-fights and explosions rock Somalia's coastal capital near-daily, with civilians bearing the brunt of casualties.

Ethiopia is Washington's key counter-terrorism ally in the region, and analysts and security sources say U.S. military intelligence was crucial to its successful push against the Islamists at the end of 2006. Meles says he will withdraw his troops when a small African Union (AU) peacekeeping force gets near to its intended number of 8,000.

The Asmara talks have brought together a diverse mix of Somali opposition leaders, from senior Islamists of the courts' movement, to dissident parliamentarians and a former deputy prime minister.

In a meeting expected to last another week, they are seeking to form an umbrella organisation to press for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

Spokesman Abdi said Western allegations that some opposing Somalia's government have terrorism links were baseless.

"There are no terrorists in Somalia. But wrong policies by Western powers, especially the United States, could create havoc and might cause uncertain problems and conflict in the region," Abdi said.

"The congress appealed to the international community to correct this course in Somalia," he said.

Somalia has had no stable leadership since the 1991 ouster of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, and has had 14 attempts at restoring central rule since then.

Somali rebels warn of full-scale war to push out Ethiopians

(AFP) — Rebellious Somali leaders on Saturday warned of a full-scale war in the conflict-torn Horn of Africa nation to push out Ethiopian troops deployed to back the feeble transitional government.

The warning came as 350 Somali rebel delegates, gathered in the Eritrean capital Asmara, continued with talks to map out a strategy against Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

"The violence is escalating in Mogadishu ... Ethiopia has pulled out of several areas due to the stiff resistance and fierce fighting of the liberation forces," said the conference spokesman Zakariya Mahamud Abdi.

"We are expecting a full scale war" in the Somali capital, that has been convulsed by near-daily guerrilla-style attacks, and elsewhere, he said.

"We will fight them in the towns, we will fight them in the villages, we will fight them in the pastoral areas," Abdi, a former member of the interim government, added.

"We have enough spirit and incentives and materials to liberate our country."

The conference also chided the United States for its tacit support of Ethiopia, which last year deployed thousands of troops in Somalia to oust an Islamist administration.

"The people were deeply concerned about the international community's continuing silence and indifference to the Ethiopian occupation. They are very critical of the blind support of the US and the Bush administration to the brutal dictatorial regime of Addis Ababa," Abdi said.

The Islamist movement, whose control of large areas of Somalia was broken early this year by joint Ethiopian and interim government forces, boycotted government-backed peace talks in Mogadishu last month, arguing that any peace efforts should take place only after an Ethiopian withdrawal.

In three years of existence, Somalia's Western-backed transitional government has failed to restore stability.

It blames the Islamic Courts Union and allied clan leaders for the near daily attacks which have plagued Mogadishu, targeting Ethiopian forces, Somali government officials and African Union peacekeepers in recent months.

The Ethiopians and around 1,500 AU peacekeepers from Uganda have failed to quell the insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives and choked off the delivery of aid to displaced civilians in and around the capital.

Other African nations that pledged to contribute to an 8,000-strong AU force have balked in the face of the growing insurgency.

Years of clan bickering exploded with the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and spawned a deadly power struggle that has defied numerous attempts to restore peace.

The interim government has failed to exert its tenuous control beyond a few pockets held by allied factions, increasing fears by Western intelligence that the nation might become a haven for extremists sympathetic to Al-Qaeda.

But the conference rejected the claims.

"There are no terrorists in Somalia, but the wrong polices of Western powers, and especially the US, could create havoc in the region and might cause an uncertain future problem and conflict in the region," Abdi warned.

5 killed in Mogadishu as violence rising

Five civilians were separately killed in Mogadishu’s main Bakara market on Saturday as the national security committee and the business community continues to discuss over establishing the security in the bazaar.

Unidentified men armed with pistols killed four men inside Bakara as the fifth person was gunned down at one of the market’s entrances mid today.

It is not yet clear why these men were killed.

The latest killings came as the government troops began moving from some of their known positions into another bases.

Abdi Wahid Mohamed Hussein, police spokesman described the move as normal to mobile police force.

“There was no problem that prompted us to take soldiers from their positions but this was part of police strategy,” said Mohamed.

Meanwhile, four grenade explosions targeting government troops happened in Mogadishu, the Somalia capital on Saturday. There was immediate casualty on the soldiers.

After the blasts, the security forces opened fire in all directions wounding two bystanders.

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