Islamic leader urges Somalis to attack peacekeepers
POSTED: 1529 GMT (2329 HKT), April 30, 2007
• NEW: All foreign troops in Somalia are enemies, Islamic leader says
• Commander of peacekeepers suggests insurgents be rehabilitated
• General says insurgents still hiding in Mogadishu
• Residents streaming back into city after last week's heavy fighting ends
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- A top Islamic leader and the former parliamentary speaker on Monday called for continued and more sophisticated attacks against Ethiopian troops and African peacekeepers backing Somalia's fragile government.
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and former speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden issued a statement from Eritrea saying the fighting against Ethiopian troops will continue until they are kicked out of Somalia. They said insurgents have adopted a new strategy, rebutting government claims that the insurgency was defeated.
"We call on Somalis, wherever they are, to continue the resistance and never accept the yoke of the colonizer," the joint statement signed by the two leaders said. All foreign troops, including African peacekeepers, were considered the enemy, the statement said.
"To compromise on resistance, while the enemy still exists, will mean helping the enemy, something the Somali people will never accept," the statement said.
Earlier Monday, a top Ugandan army commander cautioned against declaring victory over Somali insurgents, as hundreds of residents streamed back into the battle-ravaged homes and Ugandan peacekeepers prepared to begin street patrols.
"It's not yet a time to celebrate; it is not a matter of defeat," Lt. Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, commander of Uganda's land forces, said in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. "Because those who are defeated are still hiding in the city ...."
Wamala suggested that insurgents be "protected, integrated and rehabilitated," once they surrender.
"Otherwise, we could have a situation where those small groups become a source of insecurity," Wamala said.
On the roads leading to the capital, hundreds of residents, who fled the city during nine days of fighting, were seen returning to their homes on foot and aboard minibuses.
Asha Haji Ilmi, a mother of four children, decided to return to her home on Monday because "we have spent enough time under trees outside Mogadishu." Her 5-month-old son was strapped to her back and she held another sick child by the hand.
A man pushed a wheelbarrow loaded with her mattresses and utensils, while her 6-year-old-son carried a tea pot in one hand and a radio in the other.
Northeastern Mogadishu, which had seen the worst fighting, remained deserted, though.
Wamala arrived in Mogadishu during some of the worst fighting in 15 years. Insurgent groups were ejected from the capital after nine days of fighting, and Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi last week said his government had defeated the insurgents.
Wamala urged Somalia's government to include them if they are ready to participate in a reconciliation conference scheduled June 24.
A Hawiye clan elder, Ahmed Diriye, confirmed that clan elders had met with top government officials late Sunday, but refused to offer more details.
"We will hold more talks with the government in the coming days to resolve the differences between us," Diriye told The Associated Press by phone.
Wamala said he was discussing peacekeepers patrols with the government and planned talks with Ethiopian commanders.
"Our troops are committed to share the burden of restoring law and order in the capital with their partners soon," Wamala said.
Ethiopian and Somali forces have been patrolling Mogadishu since Friday, searching all vehicles for weapons.
Wamala did not say when his troops would start the patrols. Uganda has about 1,400 troops in Somalia as the vanguard of a larger African Union peacekeeping force. So far, Uganda is the only country to contribute to the peacekeeping force.
Ugandan peacekeepers were met with a surge of violence when they began deploying in Somalia's capital in March, and have kept a low profile since.
Somali and Ethiopian troops have been trying to wipe out the insurgents since late March and civilians have suffered the most. Rights groups said the fighting killed more than 1,000 people, most of them civilians, and sent up to 400,000 fleeing for safety since February. Between April 18 and 26 alone, the death toll was more than 400.
The insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces. The U.S. has accused the courts of having ties to al Qaeda. The militants reject any secular government, and have sworn to launch an Iraq-style insurgency.
The U.N. says Somalia is suffering its worst humanitarian crisis in its recent history. More than 340,000 of Mogadishu's 2 million residents have fled the fighting into squalid camps with little to eat, no shelter and disease.
"Unfortunately the international community has deserted the Somali people," Wamala said. "I want to make a call: this is not a time to desert the Somali people. This is the time the Somali people need more."
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then fought each other, throwing the country into anarchy. The current administration was formed in 2004 but has struggled to extend its control.