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Somalia's Islamic Courts Name Radical Cleric as Head of New Parliament

Islamic courts that control Somalia's capital have named a radical cleric as the head of a new parliament for the war-torn country.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was appointed to the post Saturday at a meeting of Islamic authorities in Mogadishu.

Washington considers Aweys a terrorist with ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Islamic officials at Saturday's meeting decided to restructure their organization into a parliament to be called the Council of Islamic Courts. They say 88 delegates were chosen for the parliament, which will oversee the country's sharia courts.

Aweys is an advocate of strict Islamic government. He replaces the more moderate Islamic leader, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Islamic officials say Sheikh Ahmed will head a committee to implement parliamentary decisions, and supervise daily court operations.

The group of Islamists was previously known as the Islamic Courts Union.

The group has denied any links to al-Qaida or terrorism, and says it is interested only in restoring law and order to Somalia.

The courts recently seized control of Mogadishu and several other areas from Somali warlords after months of fighting that left around 350 people dead.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.