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Somali Militant Leader says Fighting Will Continue Despite Civilian Casualties


The leader of a Somali Islamist militant group told VOA Somali Service in an exclusive interview Saturday that his militants will keep fighting, even though the conflict has recently led to about 2,000 civilian deaths, and turned half-a-million Somalis into refugees in their own country.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the militant group Hizbul Islam, said his fighters will keep battling the Somali government, and African Union peacekeepers in every possible way.

He defended tactics such as firing mortars from areas populated by civilians, saying "The Mujahid (holy warrior) is like a fish ... the population is his water." Aweys added, "The population acts like a shield and we operate out of them." He also defended suicide attacks, calling them part of the resistance.

Since returning from exile in May, Aweys, a former Somali army colonel, is credited with building Hizbul Islam into a powerful force that, together with the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, has taken control of many parts of southern Somalia, including much of the capital of Mogadishu.

The militants are trying to overthrow Somalia's moderate Islamic government and replace it with a regime that will impose strict Islamic Sharia law.

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