The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs has called on Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts to stop taking territory in volatile Somalia. The official also expressed concerns that Somalia poses a threat to regional stability and could become a haven for terrorists.
After months of fierce fighting, the Union of Islamic Courts defeated a group of warlords and militias belonging to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.
At the beginning of June, the Islamic courts took control of the capital Mogadishu and then Jowhar, a town that was once the temporary capital of Somalia's transitional government.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer slammed the Islamic courts for their expansion and called for them to stop that activity.
"The Union of Islamic Courts should not continue to expand into Somalia. They need to stop in their tracks where they are right now. Their movement out makes all of us question their intention, their motive. It also threatens the neighborhood, it threatens their neighbors. So I think it is important for them to show a signal that they are not intending any regressive action by stopping their expansion," said Frazer.
More than 350 people were killed and more than a 1,000 wounded during fighting that took place during the past few months between militias loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts and the anti-terrorism alliance.
Media reports describe the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, formed earlier this year, as being a coalition of warlords who aim to stem what they feel is growing Islamic extremism in Somalia. The Islamic Courts Union is said to want to maintain law and order in the volatile capital.
It is widely believed that the United States provided some backing for the now defeated Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.
When asked if this was true, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Frazer told reporters at a briefing late Wednesday that the U.S. was just following its established global policy.
"We have supported everybody there who can provide us with information. It does not matter whether you are an alliance or not an alliance, in the government, not in the government. What we are trying to do is reach out to those who have information and develop relationships to get the information," she said.
Frazer also said that the U.S. is concerned that Somalia could become a haven for terrorists, and that Somali poses a threat to regional stability by spreading guns and criminal activity to neighboring countries.
The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs is meeting government officials in Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia to discuss ways to support the transitional government and to stop the fighting.
Since civil war broke out in 1991, warlords and their militias have battled with each other and civilians to control different parts of Somalia.
A transitional parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago following a two-year peace process.