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Somalia Insurgents Say They Will Attack Any Foreign Troops

Islamist insurgents in Somalia have said that they will fight against any foreign troops that intervene in the country's conflict. On Saturday, Somalia's parliament appealed to countries in the region to intervene military to help the fledgling internationally-backed government.

A spokesman for the hardline Islamist al-Shabab militia warned on Sunday that any foreign troops that enter the country will be, in his words, sent back in coffins. He was responding to an appeal a day earlier by the speaker of Somalia's parliament for neighboring counties, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, to send troops to bolster the fragile government.

While 4,300 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are deployed in the capital Mogadishu, they have had little success in stemming the fighting there.

Ethiopian troops withdrew from the country in January. They had been in Somalia since late 2006 when they ousted a short-lived Islamist government, whose leaders included both Somalia's current president and many of the leaders of the insurgency. Ethiopia has said it will not send troops back to the country without an international mandate and has repeatedly denied reports from residents near the Ethiopian border that Ethiopian troops are already inside the country.

Earlier in the day, the leader of the Hizbul Islam insurgent militia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, also warned against foreign intervention.

He said any deployment of foreign troops would be illegal. He said his group would always reject foreign interference in Somalia and will fight against any troops that are sent.

In May, insurgents launched a renewed offensive against the new unity government, made up of Islamists and secular politicians. But the fighting has grown even more intense in the past week. Among those who have been killed in recent days are the internal security minister, the chief of Mogadishu's police, and a former ambassador to Ethiopia.

As many as 300 people have been killed by fighting since early May, and the UN says over 122,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

There has been no official response to the government's appeal from Kenya, but Kenya's foreign minister said on Friday it would not let the situation in Somalia continue to get worse and destabilize the East African region.

Western governments are particularly concerned about the possibility of foreign terrorists using Somalia as a haven. The United States says al-Shabab has links to al-Qaida, and foreigners are believed to be fighting alongside the Somali insurgents.

On Sunday, a spokesman for al-Shabab in the southern Somalia port city of Kismayo warned that if Kenya interfered in the Somali conflict, the group would target buildings in Nairobi.