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Hard Line Insurgent Group Vows to Increase Attacks on Somali Government


The Hard line Islamic insurgent group al-Shabaab is threatening to increase attacks on the new Somali government after one of its commanders escaped an assassination attempt. The attack on the insurgent leader's vehicle in the capital, Mogadishu left at least two people dead and over 50 others wounded. Al-Shabaab has blamed the Islamic Court Union allied to the new government for the assassination attempt. But the Islamic Court Union sharply denied the accusation.

Somali political analyst Ali Abdullahi told VOA that the new government is too weak to prevent any more attacks.

"With the arrival of last couple of days of Dahir Aweys into Mogadishu, it seems that there is a lot of troop buildup by both sides on the side of the government and also on the side of the Islamists and very soon there are going to be clashes as you have seen what has happened today," Abdullahi said.

He said violent clashes between the two Islamic groups would be rampant in the coming days.

"It seems that this (clashes) will increase as the intensity increases from the side of al-Shabaab because al-Shabaab thinks that the current government does not represent them. And not only al-Shabaab, but also other opposition, Dahir Aweys is part of it and you also have other factions who are trying to resist the government," he said.

Abdullahi said most of the opposition hard line Islamic groups do not want to recognize the authority of the new Somali government.

"So, it is a revisit to what happened to the government of Abdullahi Yusuf. And it would take time for it to settle down, but things are on high alert in Mogadishu," Abdullahi said.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was the former leader of the Islamic Court Union (ICU) which is now allied with his government. Leaders of the ICU have previously accused Al-Shabaab of several assassinations of its senior commanders, a charge the hard line group denies.

Abdullahi said the new Somali president has strong ties to the ICU.

"What you have to understand is that there are alliances. The ICU is in the alliance with the government because as you know Sheikh Sharif used to be the head of the ICU and these guys are now the so-called opposition," Abdullahi said.

He said the new Somali unity government is too weak to withstand the serious threat the hard line Islamic insurgents have been issuing.

"It doesn't have the military neither does it have the technical know-how to challenge al-Shabaab because al-Shabaab are more organized. What you also have to understand is that members of al-Shabaab used to be members of the ICU. So, it is a matter of shifting alliances," he said.

Abdullahi said al-Shabaab seems to have a lot more clout than the government given the size of the areas it controls in the country.

"Al-Shabaab controls a lot of acreage in Somalia. They control Kismayu, they control Marka and they control most of the fertile land in Somalia and they collect taxes," Abdullahi said.

He described the new unity government as weak.

"The weak government in Mogadishu also cannot sustain even with the presence of close to 3500 AU (African Union) troops because the numbers are not enough to challenge what is happening," he said.

Meanwhile, the assassination attempt led to violent clashes between al-Shabaab fighters and fighters loyal to pro-government Islamist faction, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The fighting lasted for nearly two hours after the commander popularly known as Qoslaye reportedly escaped the assassination attempt unharmed. One of Qoslaye's body guards was reported dead while the other guard was seriously wounded.

Heavy machine guns and mortars were used by both sides during yesterday's violent clashes, which died down as night fell in the city although there are fears that the fighting may resume Friday.

Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with close ties to Al Qaeda, al-Shabaab has refused to recognize President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's new unity government. The insurgent group has vowed to eventually take over the country calling the new government a puppet of the west.

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