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New Somali Government Says Unfazed by Insurgent Attacks

President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed's new Somali government says it will soon take back a town taken Sunday by hard line Islamic insurgents after two weeks of violent clashes with government forces. Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with strong links to Al Qaeda, al-Shabaab has refused to recognize the new Somali administration. Al-Shabaab fighters took control of Jowhar, a strategic town in the north of the capital, Mogadishu. Some political analysts say the takeover is a demonstration of the weakness of President Sheikh Ahmed's new government.

Abdirashid Irro Mohammed is a Somali cabinet minister. From the capital, Mogadishu he told VOA that the government is determined to succeed despite insurgent attacks.

"Really, al-Shabaab they are going to disturb the whole situation in Somalia and also in the region. And they are also trying to stop the development that the government was working on," Irro Mohammed said.

He said although the insurgents have taken over Jowhar, the government would soon take it back from them.

"So they (insurgents) took over this morning the town of Jowhar, but their mission is to hit and run. I do believe that they would seen go away very soon otherwise our government troops would be back and crush them," he said.

Irro Mohammed said the new government has set in motion plans to bolster its security forces to restore peace in the country.

"We are starting from scratch and we are preparing our security forces. So, while we are in the process, al-Shabaab is trying to disturb and to take over," Irro Mohammed said.

He expressed confidence the government would win the fight against the hard line Islamic insurgents.

"I do believe that we have confidence in our troops that we will slowly come and to control most of the strategic towns where they are now," he said.

Meanwhile, Somali Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden said the militants were being supported from outside. He had previously accused Eritrea of arming the insurgents, a charge Asmara has denied.

Irro Mohammed agreed with the Somali security minister that Eritrea was supporting the insurgents with funds and logistics.

"It is something common and everybody knows that Eritrea is supplying ammunitions and some sort of weapons to our oppositions, especially al-Shabaab and what they call Islamic jihadists," Irro Mohammed said.

He also said there are indications the insurgents seem to be getting funding from international entities.

"They are getting financial support from outside, somewhere in Asia. I don't know if it is Pakistan or somewhere in Iraq. But that is for sure and also there are foreign elements nearly four hundred persons," he said.

Irro Mohammed said there has been evidence of foreign fighters who have joined the insurgents to destabilize the country.

"Also the elements from outside are fighting in the front lines in Mogadishu and also Jowhar and Baidoa. So that is something very clear and everybody knows," Irro Mohammed said.

Meanwhile, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's new government received a significant boost after former warlord and powerful opposition leader Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, defected and pledged his support for the new administration. Mohamed Siad described as bandits the ongoing hard line Islamic insurgency in and around the capital, Mogadishu.

Irro Mohammed confirmed the defection and said Mogadishu welcomes him with open arms.

"He came back this morning and joined our forces and now he is staying with our troops. He told us that he is serious and that he would not be back to al-Shabaab and he will fight against them," Irro Mohammed said.

Some political observers say, over the last two weeks, fighting in southern Somalia has killed at least 172 civilians and wounded 528 others. They contend that Mogadishu is struggling to contain powerful insurgents, currently led by hard line militant al Shabaab.

Somalia has been without an effective government in the last 18 years after the overthrow of former President Mohammed Siad Barre.

Some political analysts say the lack of effective government led to clannish wars which have made the country unstable and a breeding ground of hard line Islamic insurgents, including al-Shabaab.