Accessibility links

Breaking News

Minister Says New Somalia Administration Abhors Insurgent Killings

Somalia's new administration has sharply denied being behind the weekend assassination of a senior insurgent commander who recently defected from the government side to join an armed opposition group.

Abelkadir Hassan Abu Qatatow was reportedly shot dead by armed assailants as he walked on the street in the capital Mogadishu.

Qatatow was a commander of pro-government Islamist faction, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), but defected last week to the hard-line insurgent group Hezbul Islam.

Somali government spokesman Abdi Kadir Walayo told VOA that the government, which discourages the killing of any Somali citizen, condemns Qatatow's assassination.

"You know, since the government is the sole representative of the people of Somalia, the government doesn't encourage killing people without any justification," Walayo said.

He said the relative peace the capital is currently enjoying could be attributed President Sheik Sharif's administration's effort to restore peace despite insurgent attacks.

"Of course, the government is doing its best to pacify and to stabilize the country, especially the capital of Mogadishu, which was sometimes a bellicose area. But not it is quiet," he said.

Walayo said the government intends calming down tensions after weeks of deadly clashes between government forces and insurgents aiming to topple the new administration.

"Since two weeks ago, there were no armed confrontations, and it seems that this can be attributed to the government efforts to diffuse all tensions existing in the capital city," Walayo said.

He insisted that the new administration would not be swayed away from its open door policy of inviting all groups to participate in finding a lasting solution to the country's security challenges.

"The government is ready to meet anytime, anywhere with those opposition groups that are not happy with government," he said.

Walayo said despite government forces coming under insurgent attacks, which have often led to scores dead, the new administration would still hold talks with the opposition.

"The government's policy is based on the Djibouti agreement that envisages the accommodation of all political groupings, especially the opposition to be part of the mainstream of the government process," Walayo said.

He denied the government had a hand in the killing of insurgent commander Qatatow.

"You know that it happened somewhere, which is one of the strongholds of the opposition groups," he said.

Walayo said President Sheikh Sharif's administration wants to minimize fatalities of ordinary civilians.

"The government is now refraining from full fighting against the opposition to avoid casualties of the opposition population," Walayo said.

Hard-line Islamic insurgents currently control much of the south and center of Somalia, including nearly two-thirds of Mogadishu, while Somali government forces backed by nearly 4,300 troops from the African Union (AMISOM peacekeepers) control parts of the capital and the central Somali town of Beledweyn.

Qatatow's death follows clashes between insurgents and government forces battling for the control of Mogadishu.

Hundreds have reportedly been killed or injured in the clashes, while tens of thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in camps for internally displaced people (IDP's) on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991 after former President Mohammed Siad Barre through a coup d'├ętat.