Somali Islamists vow to fight peacekeepers
Middle East Online | Oct. 05,2006KISMAYO, Somalia – Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of this key southern port on Wednesday, vowing to fight a holy war for Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement against proposed foreign peacekeepers.
A day after a militia allied with the country’s weak government vowed to retake Kismayo from the Islamists who seized it last week, at least 400 people marched through the town to protest plans for a peacekeeping mission.
And, as a UN envoy shuttled through the region to prevent the Somalia unrest from spreading through the greater Horn of Africa, the demonstrators also vowed to crush any forces sent by neighboring Ethiopia to support the government.
“We will never allow any foreign soldier to set foot on Somali soil,” Sheikh Adam Elmi, an official in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), told the crowd in Kismayo, which was taken by the movement on September 24.
“I tell you that the holy war against the enemy of Allah is near Kismayo,” he said to robust cheers from the crowd, mainly religious students who turned out for the SICS-sponsored event.
“This will be the first place where the soldiers of Allah and his enemies will face each other,” Elmi said.
Another speaker, cleric Mohamed Aden, identified Somalia’s “enemy number one” as Ethiopia, which supports the weak transitional government and its call for peacekeepers and is alleged to have sent troops to defend it.
“Ethiopia is encouraging defeated warlords to invade Kismayo,” he said. “They are part of the forces that will fight in Kismayo soon. Ethiopia has proved itself to be enemy number one of Somalia.”
The Islamists say they seized Kismayo, about 500 kilometres (310 miles) south of Mogadishu, to prevent the proposed, African Union-endorsed regional peacekeeping force of nearly 8,000 troops from landing at the port.
Wednesday’s demonstration was the first in support of the Islamists in Kismayo, whose takeover of the town from the government-allied Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) militia sparked several protests against their rule.
It followed an announcement on Tuesday from the JVA that they had signed an agreement with the government to retake Kismayo and would soon launch attacks on the town.
Government officials would neither confirm nor deny such a deal but said the people of Kismayo and the region had a right to self-defense.
The fall of Kismayo further clouded the government’s hopes for the deployment of the peacekeepers to shore up its limited authority amid raging debate and fears of a Taliban-style takeover of Somalia.
The Islamists seized the capital from warlords in June and have rapidly expanded their territory to include much of southern Somalia, drawing concern from some neighbors, particularly Ethiopia and Kenya.
But the east African regional bloc that is to supply troops for the peacekeeping mission is deeply divided on the matter with arch-foes Ethiopia and Eritrea heading opposite camps.
In a bid to keep the Somalia from becoming a proxy battleground for regional disputes, the UN special envoy for Somalia, Francois Fall, began a seven-nation tour of the region and concerned countries on Tuesday in Ethiopia.
From there, he is to visit Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt and Uganda for meetings aimed at easing tensions over Somalia.
The internationally backed but largely powerless government is the latest in more than a dozen attempts to restore stability to Somalia, which was plunged into anarchy after the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.