Somali Islamists announce start of ‘jihad’ while Ethiopia vows to fight if Islamists attack the Transitional Gov’t
Mogadishu – Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement called on Monday for the start of a threatened “holy war” against Ethiopian troops allegedly on Somali territory, saying their graves would litter the country. However, Bereket Siomn, a minister without portfolio and key ally of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told reuters “If they try to overthrow the legitimate government, we will help the government.”
In a speech on the eve of the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Islamists’ supreme leader, a hardline cleric designated a “terrorist” by the United States, urged all Somalis to immediately take up arms against invaders.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, chief of the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), said the time for asking Ethiopia to withdraw its troops under the threat of “jihad” was over and action was now necessary.
“We have been asking the Ethiopians to leave our country for a long time,” he told thousands at the Isbahaysiga mosque in Mogadishu, the base from where the Islamists have seized most of southern and central Somalia since June.
“This is the end of that request,” Aweys said. “We are now telling them that from now on, their graves will be littered everywhere in Somalia. We are not going to tell the world that Ethiopia is interfering in Somali affairs anymore.”
“We will now start fighting,” he said. “I am calling on all Somalis whereever they are to start jihad against the invaders and those who support them.”
On the other hand, Ethiopia warned on Monday it would intervene if Somali Islamists attacked the interim government amid a standoff over a key town that has heightened fears of all-out war. “We will defend the government if attacked by the jihadists,” senior government official Bereket Simon said.
“If they try to overthrow the legitimate government, we will help the government,” Bereket, a minister without portfolio and key ally of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told Reuters at his office.