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Somali Prime Minister: War In Horn Of Africa Inevitable
ADDIS ABABA, Dec 5, 2006 — Somalia’s prime minister told The AP war in the Horn of Africa is unavoidable because radicals control the Islamic movement that in recent months has taken over much of his country.
Mohammed Ali Gedi
Somali Prime Minister Ali Gedi indicated war was imminent, but said his government will continue to take part in all peace efforts. In the interview late Monday, he added his government was preparing to defend itself against attacks by the Council of Islamic Courts, as the movement that has taken over most of southern Somalia is known.
"We have already mobilized our forces, we have trained a few thousand troops, they are ready," Gedi said during a visit to Ethiopia’s capital. Ethiopia has backed Gedi’s government, angering the Islamic movement which sees it as interference from Somalia’s traditional rival.
Somali’s rainy season is coming to an end and roads will be passable again for military vehicles in the next two weeks, he added. But Gedi said his forces wouldn’t attack the Islamic courts.
The U.S. has said the Islamic movement has links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist group. Islamic leaders have repeatedly denied the accusation.
Gedi said the most radical leaders within the courts have taken control of the movement and they won’t take peace talks seriously.
"They are the decision makers now," he added. "Those who believe that the situation in Somalia will be solved through dialogue and talks are wrong."
He said the Islamic forces included more than 3,000 foreign fighters, echoing similar statements made by a U.N. panel investigating violations of an arms embargo that has been in place since 1992, when the last effective central government in Somalia collapsed.
Gedi’s internationally backed government is the 14th attempt to restore the rule of law in Somalia. But his parliament and Cabinet, made up of former warlords and civic leaders, has struggled to expand out of Baidoa, a key town 250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu.
From within this power vacuum, a disparate group of Islamic leaders have banded together to create the Council of Islamic Courts, driving out warlords and installing clerical rule in the areas it now controls.
The international community has sponsored several rounds of peace talks to bring Gedi’s government and the courts together. Gedi pointed out that after each round of talks, the Islamic courts returned to Mogadishu and dispatched troops to capture additional territory, despite promises to stop their expansion.
Ethiopia has sent military advisers to Baidoa and has trained Somali troops to protect the government. On Friday, the U.S. introduced a U.N. resolution to partially lift the arms embargo on Somalia to allow for regional peacekeepers.
U.S. officials say that by providing the government with peacekeepers, the Islamic courts will have a greater incentive to pursue peace talks, rather than a military solution.
Gedi said his government needs international support in order to survive against what he calls the terrorist forces within the Islamic courts. He said the draft resolution should allow any country to provide troops to protect his government.
He said recent suicide bombings in Baidoa were contrary to Somali culture and proof foreign fighters had come to Somalia.
"Suicide bombings was transferred to Somalia from elsewhere," Gedi said. "It will not stop in Somalia, it will spread out."
The U.S. has issued a travel advisory for Somalia’s neighbors Kenya and Ethiopia, warning extremists in Somalia could launch suicide attacks in those countries.