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Somali Insurgents Reject al-Qaida Criticism

A leader of a Somali insurgent group that signed an agreement with the interim government earlier this month has dismissed an al-Qaida leader's criticism of the deal. Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi.

Earlier this month, the leader of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, a moderate Islamist insurgent group, signed an agreement with the prime minister of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, calling for an end to fighting within a month and for a U.N. peacekeeping mission to replace Ethiopian forces in the country.

Sunday, an al-Qaida leader, Abu Yahya Al-Libi, posted a video to a militant Islamist website, criticizing the deal. He urged Somalis to continue fighting for an Islamist government in Somalia.

Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia Deputy Chairman Abdirahman Abdishakur, who was in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, rejected the terrorist appeal.

"I do not think we are interested in al-Qaida's statements and they have nothing to do with Somali issues. Al-Qaida has not got any base in Somalia and they always issue statements against any peace process. I do not think their statements are relevant to the Somali people," said Abdishakur.

Abdirahman headed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia's delegation to the negotiations, which were held in Djibouti with U.N., EU, and U.S. backing.

"Somali people want to see the Ethiopians leave from their country and an international peacekeeping force to be deployed, and that has been agreed in Djibouti conference. And what we are interested in as A.R.S. is how Somali people can reach an agreement and how we can end the conflict and occupation," he added.

More radical insurgent leaders have rejected the peace deal. These include Sheikh Hassan Turki and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who have been accused of ties to al-Qaida by the United States, and who say they will not negotiate with the interim government until Ethiopian forces leave the country.

The United Nations has said it would consider sending a force to Somalia, but putting one in place is likely to prove difficult. Six months into a peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region of nearby Sudan, the world body has still managed to deploy fewer than 10,000 of the planned 26,000 troops.

Since January, 2007, Somalia's transitional government, backed by Ethiopian forces, has been battling an insurgency composed of several Islamist and clan-based militias. The conflict has displaced more than one million people in what U.N. officials have called Africa's worst humanitarian crisis.