Islamists holding much of Somalia’s capital have declared war on what they call "infidels." The declaration raises fears of new clashes between militias loyal to the Islamic Courts Union and members of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. Fighting between the two groups over the past few months has resulted in the deaths of more than 350 people in Mogadishu. Leaders of the secular coalition of warlords insist the battle for the capital is not over and their forces will move to regain lost territory. Somali elders continue to appeal for peace.
Mohammed Abdi is the information minister of the UN-backed transitional government, currently seated in Baidoa, 250 kilometers from Mogadishu. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje asked him where the Islamic militia’s takeover of Mogadishu leaves his government.
“Our council of ministries…and all government have…asked them to restore peace and stability of the city, and we will build with them.”
Abdi said the government wants to cooperate with the Islamic courts. “People are fed up with the warlords and their lack of negotiation, their lack of peace in Mogadishu for the last 15 years…. Now we want to restore the security of this city and to deal with Islamic courts and civil society organizations and businessmen to fight them and to cooperate with the government.”
He says the government has already started negotiations with the Islamic courts: “We have invited them to put their guns down and to cooperate with the government. They have signaled that they want to cooperate with the government. We will send a delegation to Mogadishu and there is already a governor of the…region who has already started the negotiation. We will see in the next few days how things will be.”
The information minister says that the Somali people would not allow the Islamic courts to take over the government. “If the Islamic courts try to form their own administration and confront the transitional government of Somalia, that’s another misfortune. But I hope they will not do that. And the people will not accept it because the people want to support the Somali government. The societies in Mogadishu will not accept the Islamic courts to make their own administrations but they will accept to cooperate with the government. That’s the reality.”
He hopes that this development will bring support from global powers because “…Somali issues are not only Somalis. If there is not any effective central government in this situation, it is really possible for Somali to change…. We are appealing…for the international community…to support Somali government to restore Somalia.”
He says it is possible the Islamic courts may have ties to terrorism. He says anything is possible in a country that has had no effective central government for the past 15 years.
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