In a severe blow to efforts to establish a functioning government in the Horn of Africa country of Somalia, four elected ministers, all based in the capital Mogadishu, have announced that they are quitting the government.
The minister for national security in Somalia's struggling transitional national government, Mohammed Qanyare Afrah, says he and three other ministers agreed several days ago to withdraw from government, currently located in the provincial town of Baidoa, 240 kilometers west of the capital.
Wednesday was the deadline for the ministers to formally join the parliamentary body, which has the backing of the United Nations, but remains largely powerless.
Qanyare tells VOA that he is quitting his cabinet post because the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf are not interested in restoring security in Mogadishu.
"They are not considering the job we are doing. Mogadishu has no security. We are working on security to fight terrorism. They are against us because they are siding with the terrorists," he said.
The other three disaffected ministers are the minister of religion, Omar Finish, the minister of the disarmament of militias, Botan Ise Alin, and the minister of trade, Muse Sudi Yalahow.
Yalahow accused transitional government leaders of being ineffective and lazy.
Yalahow says the government does not want to come to Mogadishu because it is happy doing nothing in Baidoa. He says the people of Mogadishu do not need a government that does nothing.
Yalahow, Qanyare, and their two colleagues are powerful factional leaders in the capital and senior-ranking members of the newly-formed, 11-member anti-terror group, the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. The group's aim, they say, is to rid the country of Muslim extremists, who are attempting to turn Somalia into another Afghanistan.
But many Somalis say they believe the real reason why the four factional leaders are pulling out of the government is because they are angry over recent comments made by President Yusuf.
President Yusuf accused the United States of funding the anti-terror alliance, adding that Washington should be working with interim government leaders to bring stability to Somalia, not giving money to warlords to chase down terrorists.
The alliance flatly denies it is receiving U.S. help. The United States has long viewed Somalia as a potential haven for Islamic militants. But U.S. officials say the United States is not giving direct assistance to the anti-terror group.
Somalia's interim government was formed in neighboring Kenya in late 2004, but internal splits have always threatened to scuttle the 14th attempt to restore central rule to the country in 15 years.