January 05, 2007

Somalia calls for military assistance

Somalia calls for military assistanceAgencies
Friday January 5, 2007
Guardian Unlimited
Diplomats from the United States, Europe and Africa met in Kenya to discuss the situation in Somalia amid fears that the nation could be hit by guerrilla warfare similar to that in Iraq.
The Somali president, Abdullahi Yusuf, has called for immediate military and financial help in the wake of the fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and the ousted Islamist leadership, which has left many parts of the country unstable.
The meeting, which discussed security issues as well as whether to send UN-approved peacekeepers and aid to the country, was held just hours after a purported audio tape by al-Qaida's deputy leader urged Somali Islamists to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla campaign against Ethiopian forces in the country.
"You must ambush, mine, raid and (carry out) martyrdom campaigns so that you can wipe them out," Ayman al-Zawahri, deputy to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said in his message posted on a website used by militant Islamic groups.
"As happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the world's strongest power was defeated by the campaigns of the mujahideen, troops going to heaven so its slaves shall be defeated on the Muslim lands of Somalia," he said.
The message gives credence to US accusations that the Islamists are linked to al-Qaida, a charge the Islamists denied. US warships are currently guarding the Somali coast to make sure suspected terrorists do not leave the country. Kenya has also closed its border crossing to Somali refugees fleeing the country, leading to concern from international aid agencies.
Thousands of Islamists are thought to be in hiding in and around the capital, Mogadishu, and in Somalia's remoter areas after being diverted by the government forces. And gunfire has been heard around the region between Somalia's Indian Ocean coast and the Kenyan border. At least one Ethiopian soldier has been killed in an ambush in southern Somalia, while a hand grenade was thrown at Ethiopian troops in the capital.
There are also fears of a return to clan violence between rival warlords which had mostly stopped during the six months of Islamist rule.
Meanwhile, the US representative in the area has held a separate meeting with the presidents of Ethiopia and Uganda. Ethiopia provided the troops to defeat the Islamic forces and now wants to withdraw its forces within a few weeks but the interim government there may founder without military support. Uganda has offered 1,000-2,000 troops to protect Somalia's transitional government and train its troops and Nigeria may also give military assistance.
Somalia's last effective government collapsed in 1991, when clan militias overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

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