Thu, Aug 11, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Somalian government offers amnesty to rebels

AFP, MOGADISHU

Somalia’s embattled government offered an amnesty on Tuesday to Islamist rebels still fighting in Mogadishu, while the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force pressed for 3,000 more troops to secure the capital.

Although the bulk of the Islamist Shebab who controlled about half of Mogadishu pulled out on Saturday, remnant insurgents have clashed with AU-backed Somalian government troops trying to secure the famine-struck city.

The government “offered a general amnesty to insurgent fighters remaining in Mogadishu who give themselves up and renounce violence,” it said in a statement.

“We offer an amnesty — put down your weapons and your guns, and come and join the people and your society,” government spokesman Abdirahman Osman said.

Major General Fred Mugisha, the Ugandan commander of the AU troops protecting the Somalian government, called for an urgent deployment of 3,000 soldiers to boost security in Mogadishu after the Shebab pulled out.

“Our forces now have to cover a much larger area of the city and we risk being overstretched,” Mugisha said in a statement.

His request is in line with a UN Security Council resolution adopted last December that authorized boosting the AU force in Somalia, currently numbering 9,000, to 12,000.

“We need to move quickly if we are to help expand government administration and help Somalians. History will judge us for the lives we protect, not those we destroy,” Mugisha added.

About 100,000 Somalians who have fled to Mogadishu from other parts of the country because of a severe drought are facing famine and aid groups are struggling to provide emergency supplies.

The Shebab rebels said their withdrawal from the war-wracked capital was a change of military tactics.

However, much of southern and central Somalia remains under their control. Analysts say internal wrangles, losses in the fighting for Mogadishu and a possible change of military strategy explained the withdrawal.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it was assessing how the rebel withdrawal would open aid groups’ access to the city.

“Although it is too early to know what the impact on the overall situation is, humanitarian actors are assessing the ability to operate and/or scale up activities,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

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