Accessibility links

Breaking News

Somali President Says Government Near Collapse

Somalia's president says insurgents now control most of the country, and that the government is close to collapse.

The remarks by President Abdullahi Yusuf late Saturday followed the capture of several key towns in recent days by Islamist militant groups.

Mr. Yusuf says the government now controls only Mogadishu and the parliament seat, Baidoa. He blamed the situation on persistent disputes within the government, and warned that Somalia faces a grim future if Islamists take full power.

Islamist forces often impose a strict form of sharia law in the areas they control. On Saturday, they publicly whipped 32 dancers in the southern town of Balad. Spokesman Abdirahim Isse Adow said it is "un-Islamic" for men and women to dance together.

Mr. Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein have been trying for weeks to form a new cabinet. But Mr. Yusuf has so far rejected the candidates for ministry posts suggested by the prime minister.

The leaders and Somali lawmakers have been meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in hopes of sorting out the dispute. Prime Minister Hussein named a lineup of 10 new cabinet ministers Sunday.

The government has never been able to assert control in Somalia since its formation in 2004. Islamists took over much of the country in 2006 but were ousted by an Ethiopian-backed government offensive.

The Islamists began an insurgency in early 2007, sparking almost daily clashes with Ethiopian and government forces. The fighting has killed thousands of Somalis and displaced hundreds of thousands of others, aggravating the country's humanitarian crisis.

Somalia has not had a stable central government since 1991.

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