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Somalia's Islamic Courts Pledge to Keep Out Terrorists


The leader of Somalia's newly powerful Islamic courts has written the U.S. government, pledging to help prevent his country from becoming a terrorist haven.

In a three-page letter dated Wednesday, Sheik Sharif Ahmed says Somali Muslims have been subject to years of terrorist-like activity from warlords and criminal gangs. He says his community opposes terrorism, and will assist international efforts to keep Somalia from becoming a transit route or hiding place for terrorists.

U.S. officials have expressed concern that Somali Islamic leaders are hiding terrorist suspects linked to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

News of the letter comes one day after the United States hosted an international meeting on Somalia. Participants called on Somalia's warring factions to stop fighting and allow aid groups full access to the war-ravaged country.

Militias loyal to the Islamic courts have recently taken control of several major Somali cities, including the capital, Mogadishu.

It remains unclear whether the courts will cooperate with Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government. The government has little influence outside its base in Baidoa, west of the capital.

The courts oppose a government plan to bring in Sudanese and Ugandan peacekeepers to stabilize the country. The government of Yemen has offered to mediate talks between the sides.

Islamic authorities say they are trying to bring order to Somalia, which has not had an effective central authority since 1991.