|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Mogadishu Tensions Soar As Islamists Declare Jihad On Warlords
MOGADISHU, April 22, 2006 – Tension soared in the capital of lawless Somalia as Mogadishu's powerful Islamic courts declared holy war on a militia alliance widely believed to be backed by the United States.
With many city residents already convinced new hostilities are imminent between the rival factions, Muslim clerics urged the destruction of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT).
At a demonstration attended by hundreds in southern Mogadishu after Friday prayers, Sheikh Nur Ollow, an imam and senior Islamic court figure, told the crowd it was time to fight the warlords whose militias make up the alliance.
"It is time to fight the unholy elements that are sabotaging peace efforts and serving the interests of non-Somalis who could not care less about our well-being, culture and religion," he said.
"It is time to help those who want peace and harmony among Somalis and the teachings of the commands of Allah and the words of the Prophet," Ollow said. "We will not be governed by a few warlords financed by the enemy of Islam."
A second cleric affiliated with the courts, Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim Sulley, echoed those comments and went further, informing the crowd that battling the warlords was a religious obligation.
"As it says in the Koran, the fight against those who are promoting hostility and fighting against Islam is a holy war," he said. "Any war against the warlords is a holy war and a sacrifice in the name of Allah.
"Let us eliminate these warlords and set up a peaceful administration supported by the vast majority of people in Mogadishu," Sulley said, prompting the crowd to chant angry slogans denouncing the warlords.
"Down with the agents of America and down with agents promoting Satanic teaching," they yelled, according to an AFP correspondent on the scene.
The bellicose comments were clearly directed at the ARPCT, which was founded in February by Mogadishu warlords opposed to the growing influence of the courts that they accuse of hosting Islamic extremists and training terrorists.
An official in the alliance, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the crowd that cheered the imams' call for holy war was "misguided" and unaware of his group's policies, which he claimed had huge backing.
"They are misguided and misinformed," the official said. "The alliance is supported by most people in Mogadishu."
At least 52 people were killed and hundreds displaced in Mohgadishu in March when the two sides squared off in the bloodiest clashes since the country collapsed into anarchy with the 1991 ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.
The alliance is seen by many here as a Washington-backed, anti-Muslim instrument of the US led war on terrorism and fears of new pitched battles between it and gunmen loyal to the courts have skyrocketed in recent days.
The two sides have been re-positioning their forces and stockpiling weapons as they gird for renewed conflict and thousands of terrified Mogadishu residents have fled their homes to avoid the expected violence.
Underscoring those fears, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) on Friday called on both sides not to target civilians, particularly reporters, if and when they do battle.
"NUSOJ is urging opposing armed groups ... not to imperil the life of journalists and generally to refrain fighting in civilian areas," it said in a statement.
The United States has refused to comment on claims it is supporting the alliance but on Wednesday issued a statement through the US embassy in Nairobi appealing for calm in Mogadishu.
"Provocations and fresh outbreaks of violence in Mogadishu can serve only the interests of extremist elements," it said.