In an attempt to strengthen Somalia's fractious transitional government, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Thursday appointed 48-year-old American-Somali Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as the country's new Prime Minister.
The president praised the experience of Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, and expressed confidence in his ability take up the difficult post.
If approved by the Somali Parliament, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will replace former Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who resigned three weeks ago after a bitter power-struggle with the president.
Late Thursday Mohamed thanked the president for the appointment and pledged to work closely with him and parliament to tackle problems facing the beleaguered government. But there are many in Somalia who doubt whether Mohamed is up to the task.
Mohamed is a U.S. citizen who has lived in New York State for more than 20 years. Before becoming an American citizen, he was a Somali diplomat and worked in the country's Washington embassy from 1986 until 1991. Mohamed holds a Master's Degree in political science and was teaching at the Erie Community College in the city of Buffalo when President Ahmed selected him to be the next prime minister.
Mohamed's nomination has come as a surprise to many in Somalia and some Mogadishu residents said they believe the appointment to be the result of pressure from the government of the United States.
The U.S. State Department has not issued a statement regarding Mohamed's nomination, but officials have privately dismissed claims of U.S. involvement in the decision as "ridiculous."
Mohamed will be responsible for bringing stability to a country that has been without a functioning government for more than 20 years. The weak transitional government controls only parts of the capital, Mogadishu.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, unidentified gunmen abducted a Somali man and a British aid worker who was consulting for the London-based organization Save the Children. The two were taken from the town of Adado, near Galkayo in central Somalia. Adado is home to various gangs and pirate groups and control of the area has been disputed by al-Qaida-linked rebels al-Shabaab and sufi militia Ahlu Sunna wal-Jama'a.
The hostages were reportedly moved from Adado after Ahlu Sunna forces took control of the town early Friday. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and it is not known where the victims are.