Monday, January 26, 2009

Somalia News Bulletin: Al-Shabab Overruns Baidoa; Parliament Expanded; AU Forces Vow to Fire Back

Monday, January 26, 2009
21:41 Mecca time, 18:41 GMT

Al-Shabab overruns Somali town

Al-Shabab wants to impose its strict version of Islamic law in Somalia

Fighters from the al-Shabab group have captured the Somali town of Baidoa and seized the parliament building just hours after Ethiopian troops pulled out of the country, witnesses said.

Mohammed Sheikh Nur, a journalist based in Mogadishu, told Al Jazeera that al-Shabab fighters had also taken control of the airport and the presidential palace.

"They are now in full control of the town and have urged people to stay calm. There have been injuries [as a result of the clashes] but no deaths so far," he said.

Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a spokesman of the al-Shabab, said: "The town is completely in our hands. We have taken control of Baidoa today."

His group has vowed to carry on fighting and impose its strict version of Islamic law throughout the country.

Due to the poor security situation, Somalia's parliament has been meeting in neighbouring Djibouti, aiming to elect a new president following the resignation of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed last month.

Next president

On Monday, the parliament voted to double its size, allowing 200 members from the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) to join.

Seventy-five seats are to be filled by other opposition and civil society members later.

The United Nations is mediating between the different sides in Djibouti.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN's envoy to Somalia, welcomed the parliamentary reform.

"I am extremely encouraged by this vote and I would like to thank Somalia's leaders, the parliamentarians and all those who have helped work towards such a positive step," he said.

After the new members are sworn in, the parliament is expected to elect a new president.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the head of the Islamic Courts Union and the more moderate wing of the ARS, announced on Monday that he would be running for the country's presidency after the parliament voted to accept members of the opposition alliance.

"I will do all that I can to serve honestly if elected president," Ahmed said.

At least 16 other candidates, including Nur Hassan Hussein, the current prime minister, and his predecessor Ali Mohamed Gedi have also shown interest in becoming the next president.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Islamists seize Somali parliament seat

Posted: 1/26/2009 5:39:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

BAIDOA (Sh. M. Network)-Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgents have taken control of Baidoa, the seat of the transitional parliament, witnesses said on Monday.

The seizure comes after the Ethiopian troops vacated the town early on Monday.

Reports from Baidoa say that Al-Shabaab insurgents captured some Somali MPs including a minister, Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, but they released them later and now the town is calm.

Local militias looted ADC, the centre of the parliament and other government offices.

Locals say at least four people were killed and ten others injured in after insurgents hurled a grenade at government soldiers near a bus-stop.

The government soldiers then opened gunfire to many directions which prompted civilian casualties.

There is no word from al-Shabaab.

Shabelle Media Network

UN envoy welcomes expansion of Somali Parliament

Posted: 1/26/2009 5:16:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

DJIBOUTI (Sh. M. Network)-UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah on Monday welcomed the overwhelming vote by Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament in favour of expanding the legislative body by an additional 275 Members.

"I am extremely encouraged by this vote and I would like to thank Somalia's leaders, the Parliamentarians and all those who have helped work towards such a positive step," Ould-Abdallah saidin a statement issued in Nairobi.

The Parliamentary vote, which took place in Djibouti on Monday, resulted in 211 MPs voting in favour of expansion with six against and three abstentions.

The Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia agreed last October on the outline of enlarging Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament and forming a Government of National Unity.

Up to 200 new members of Parliament, selected by the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) are expected to be sworn in Djibouti while the expanded Parliament will subsequently elect a new president.

The other 75 seats are being kept for members of civil society and opposition who are not members of the ARS.

"This is a very good result and will demonstrate to the Somali people that their leaders are committed to moving forward together to restore peace and stability," said Ould-Abdallah.

The international community hopes a more inclusive Somali government will be able to reach out to armed groups who are still fighting the interim government and targeting African Union peacekeepers in the capital Mogadishu.

"It means Somalia will have a new President who will be able to attend the African Union Summit of Heads of State in Addis Ababa on Feb. 1, demonstrating the progress that was made here in a short space of time."

"The international community has also made a key contribution with support for the Parliamentary meetings and, as always, Djibouti has provided most welcome hospitality and backing," said the UN special representative.

Shabelle Media Network

African peacekeepers ready to defend if attacked

Posted: 1/18/2009 6:57:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

MOGADIHSU (Sh. M. Network)-The AU peace keepers in Mogadishu known as AMISOM are ready to defend from any attackers, AMISOM spokesman Maj. Barigye Bahoko told Radio Shabelle on Sunday.

Al-Shabaab insurgents attacked African Union peacekeepers for the first time since Ethiopian troops pulled out from Mogadishu on Saturday evening.

“We have never been the first ones to fire our bullets to anyone and we will never be, but we have a right to defend our selves, those who are making threats have to understand the problem of Somalia is not AMISOM. It is the lack of peace and security, Maj. Barigye told Radio Shabelle.

“The self defense we have always done is the one we want to continue. It simply means that we will respond the attackers. We do not fire everyone, we fire to the positions where we have been shot,” he added.

Mr. Bahoko welcomed the voices of the Somali clerics and traditional elders who supported the peace process.

He also welcomed the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops and said Ethiopia complied the peace agreement of Djibouti which was signed in Djibouti between the transitional government and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia.

Shabelle Media Network

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