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Somali Islamists Chide Govt

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Mogadishu, July 24, 2006 – Somali Islamists on Monday bristled with anger at the transitional government's decision to host a former powerful warlord, whom they ousted from the capital last month, as tension remained high in the shattered African nation, said officials.

A government spokesperson said warlord Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, who was the most powerful faction leader in the Mogadishu area for more than a decade, arrived at the temporary seat of the government in the southcentral township, Baidoa, on Sunday.

Abdirahman Mohamed Nur Dinari said: "He arrived here yesterday evening", refusing to divulge more details.

But the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), which controlled swathes of southern Somalia , including the capital, protested the government's move to host one of the warlords, who was blamed for pillaging Mogadishu since the government of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre was toppled in 1991.

Qanyare 'is hosted by the govt'

Sheikh Muktar Robow, the deputy head of defense in the SICS, said: "We think the government is showing the worst hostility by hosting our enemies.

"We know Qanyare is hosted by the government in Baidoa to participate in the ongoing efforts to attack us here in Mogadishu.

"He is among the evil-doers hosted by the government and its Ethiopian allies in Baidoa to participate in war activities, but they will never succeed."

Last month, the government and the Islamists reached a mutual recognition pact that also called for a cessation of hostilities at Arab League-mediated peace talks in Khartoum.

Ethiopian troops moves to Somalia

Both sides were set to resume talks at an as yet unannounced date, but recent saber-rattling between them had undermined prospects of holding those negotiations.

Tension had heightened between them after Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia to protect the country's toothless government after it accused the Islamists of plotting an attack against it.

But the government based in Baidoa, a provincial outpost 250km northwest of the capital, again denied the claims.

Qanyare was among a group of the now-defeated Somali warlords under Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), who were bankrolled by the United States to curb the rising influence of the Islamists as well as search and kill alleged terrorists believed to be hiding among the Islamists.

But the Islamists, whose growing dominance threatened the transitional government, vehemently rejected links to terrorism and insisted that they were only interested in restoring law and order.

Source: AFP, July 24, 2006

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