Sun, Mar 27, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Somali threatens jihad if peacekeepers are sent in

AP , Mogadishu, Somalia

An Islamic leader on a US terrorist list threatened holy war if the African Union sends peacekeepers to Somalia in an attempt to install a government currently in exile in neighboring Kenya.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, a former Somali army colonel suspected of having ties with the al-Qaeda terror group, told reporters Friday that allowing foreign troops into Somalia was contrary to Islamic teachings.

He said it would be the religious duty of all Somalis to fight any peacekeeping force.

Clan fighters might find God's forgiveness for helping plunge Somalia into chaos if they cleansed "themselves with the blood of the foreign invaders," Aweys said.

Somalia's new government, which so far has been unable to establish itself in the Horn of Africa country because of security concerns, has asked the African Union to send a peacekeeping force to secure the capital, Mogadishu.

Regional leader have pledged to send 6,800 troops to back up the new government, which is made up of warlords and clan leaders.

But Islamic fundamentalists, who make up a very small percentage of Somalia's society, refused to participate in the peace process.

The interim Somali parliament, during a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, dissolved into a brawl on March 17 over whether neighboring countries would be allowed to contribute troops to a peacekeeping force.

The interim president is a close ally of Ethiopia and has suggested Ethiopian troops might be used to help secure Somalia, despite objections from most of the lawmakers.

The new, internationally backed government would be the first in Somalia since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Since then, the warlords have divided the country into warring fiefdoms.

The normally reclusive Aweys said at a news conference in Mogadishu that he did not reject the new government, led by his longtime rival President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, but said if it was truly legitimate, it would not need foreign troops' protection.

"Somalia needs a government, an administration for the restoration of the rule of law," he said. "But that does not mean Somalia needs foreigners to restore them their dignity."

Aweys led Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a Somali group the US says has ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror group. Aweys has denied having any ties to al-Qaeda or being involved in terrorism.

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