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Somali President Urges Pirates to Cease Attacks

Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has called on pirates to stop attacking ships off the country's coast.

In an exclusive interview with VOA Somali service, President Sharif says the pirates are putting Somalia in a very risky situation with what he called their "dangerous" actions.

He said the pirates' activities are forbidden by Islam and are doing terrible things to Somalia's culture and traditions.

Somali pirates have taken in millions of dollars by hijacking foreign commercial vessels for ransom.

But the piracy has brought foreign naval patrols to the waters around Somalia, and several incidents where foreign forces have killed or captured Somali pirates.

Regarding Somalia's security situation, President Sharif said insurgents should stop fighting the government now that parliament has approved plans to institute Islamic law throughout the country.

He said most of the opposition's objectives are not to correct or build things but to destroy them.

Somalia has been wracked with violence and chaos for 18 years, since the fall of the last central government.

An Islamist insurgency that began in 2007 has killed thousands of Somalis and driven hundreds of thousands out of the capital, Mogadishu.

President Sharif was elected by parliament in January, after a peace deal between the previous government and moderate Islamists.

Hardline Islamist groups like al-Shabab have rejected the peace deal and vowed to continue fighting, to establish a conservative Islamic state.