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Somali Government Denies Arms Sale to Hard Line Islamic Insurgents


The new Somali government has sharply denied reports that unpaid soldiers of the national army have been selling their weapons to hard line Islamic insurgents, including al-Shabaab. This comes after President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed accused the insurgents of working for other governments to destabilize the country following four days of intensive fighting. The clashes have left at least 70 people dead and scores injured. Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with strong ties to Al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has refused to recognize the new Somali government.

Abdirashid Irro Mohammed is a Somali cabinet minister. He told VOA that the new government is doing everything possible to restore peace and stability.

"Really that is totally false, and as I told you, the government has already made payments for the months of April, May and June and already has paid the month of April and there is no idea about the sale of weapons and the troops are ready to defend the government of national unity," Mohammed said.

He said the government has made provisions for national soldiers to be paid.

"They have got their salary and there is no problem (selling of weapons)," he said.

Mohammed said the new government is on course to restoring normalcy to the country.

"We are trying our best to bring peace and stability in our country. And in one side we are going to open a dialogue with our opposition whether they are inside or outside Somalia," Mohammed said.

He said the government aims to bolster its security forces as part of its effort to ensure stability.

"On the other hand, we are organizing and recruiting our national forces and we want to build our national forces. Unless we get the national forces, we cannot maintain peace and stability of the country," he said.

Mohammed said the government has a two-prong approach towards maintaining peace and stability in Somalia.

"So, on one way we are trying to do our best to deal with the opposition in a dialogue and on the other side, we are trying to build our national force and to empower the national security institutions," Mohammed said.

He said the government would push forward with its plans to alleviating the suffering of the average Somali.

"We are very confident that we can maintain and stay in Mogadishu and we can keep the government business to continue," he said.

Mohammed said the hard line Islamic insurgents want to cause chaos and make the country ungovernable.

"Really, they want to disturb the whole situation and they are trying to attack certain positions for our national forces and also the AMISOM (African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia) positions. So the president has declared to the national army and AMISOM also to defeat this evil," Mohammed said.

He said the new government would prevail despite the enormous challenge it faces.

"We have been in Mogadishu within 90 days and still the government is trying to do its best to organize the national resources, the national army and everything else," he said.

Meanwhile, several United Nations reports have accused neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf Arab states of violating an arms embargo on Somalia.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed led the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 which controlled Mogadishu and much of the south and brought a level of relative security not seen in Somalia in years.

Somalia has been without an effective government since the overthrow of Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991. After his overthrow however, clanism and extended family loyalties and conflicts led to instability. But some political observers see President Ahmed's administration as the best hope in years to restore stability. At the time of independence in 1960, Somalia was touted in the West as the model of a rural democracy in Africa.

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