Somali insurgents back Al Qaeda, clashes claim 16 lives

Monday, February 1, 2010

NAIROBI/MOGADISHU - Somali Islamist insurgent group Al Shabaab and a smaller militia vowed Monday to take part in an international Al Qaeda-led Jihad as clashes rocked Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

At a meeting attended by high-ranking officials from al-Shabaab and the Mu’skar Raskanboni militia, senior Al Shabaab leader Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf said the two groups were joining forces to establish an Islamic state.

Khalaf also warned that the groups would back Al Qaeda in the region.

“We also approved to work together in a jihad, led by the Al Qaeda network, in the east and Horn of Africa,” Mogadishu-based Radio Shabelle quoted him as saying.

Al-Shabaab has long been linked with Al Qaeda. Foreign fighters are believed to be flocking to the chaotic Horn of Africa nation to plot domestic and international attacks.

Neighbouring Kenya has already upped its security over concerns of terror attacks in Nairobi, where many United Nations and international charity staff are based.

Ethiopia - which occupied Somalia for two years after kicking out an Islamist regime at the end of 2006, sparking the current insurgency - and Uganda - which supplies troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia - are also potential targets.

All three nations are predominately Christian.

However, analysts are sceptical that the insurgents, heavily involved in their domestic fight, have much capacity for foreign attacks.

Battles continue on an almost daily basis. In the latest fighting, at least 16 people died in overnight battles between Al Shabaab and government troops in Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab launches frequent attacks in the capital as it tries to oust the weak Western-backed government, which is propped up by a force of just over 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers.

The latest casualties came when mortar fire rained down on an Islamist-controlled area in apparent retaliation for an attack on the presidential palace.

Ali Yasin from the Mogadishu-based Elman Peace and Human Rights’ Organisation told DPA that at least 16 people had died and 71 were wounded in the fighting.

Most of them were women and children. One witness said they had no chance to hide from the shelling, which he said came out of the blue.

Filed under: Terrorism

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