Site of Somali Government Is Put Under Islamic Law – By MOHAMMED IBRAHIM( MOGADISHU, Somalia)

January 28th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The radical Islamist insurgents who have seized the provisional capital moved Tuesday to consolidate their control of the town and announced that they were imposing Islamic law there.

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The radical Islamist insurgents who have seized the provisional capital moved Tuesday to consolidate their control of the town and announced that they were imposing Islamic law there.

The Shabab, one of the most militant Islamist militias fighting for control of the country, captured the town, Baidoa, on Monday, hours after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops who had been protecting it.

Speaking to thousands of spectators at a soccer stadium in the northeastern part of town, the Shabab spokesman, Sheik Muktar Robow, urged calm and ordered an end to the looting that took place on Monday.

“I want you to be calm,” said Sheik Muktar, also known as Abu Monsur. “From today on, Islamic Shariah law will be the rule of this town. If anyone opposes the Shariah, appropriate steps will be taken.”

In addition to Baidoa, a market town that has served as the seat of Somalia’s transitional government, the Shabab controls most of Mogadishu, the main city and official capital, and much of the southern part of the country. The Shabab, listed by the United States as a terrorist organization, seeks to turn Somalia into an Islamic state under its particularly strict brand of Islamic law.

Sheik Muktar, whose speech on Tuesday was broadcast on the radio in Mogadishu, also ordered Baidoa residents to turn over any looted property to the Shabab or face unspecified consequences. The offices of the transitional government were looted and ransacked Monday after the Ethiopian troops left, a witness said.

The weak transitional government had been defended by Ethiopian troops since 2006 and supported by other countries in an effort to prop up an effective central government in a country that had not had one in 18 years.

But by the time the Shabab arrived in Baidoa, there was little government left. The president resigned last month. Most members of Parliament departed over the weekend for Djibouti, where they are taking part in United Nations-brokered peace talks and what now amounts to a shadow Somali government.

Once the Ethiopian military abandoned the town on Monday, the insurgents were able to take it without firing a shot.

The transitional government now controls only a few blocks in Mogadishu, although parts of Somalia are under moderate Islamist militias that support the government.

Several moderate factions have sent delegations to Djibouti, where they are working with the Parliament to establish a unity government based on a power-sharing deal made in October.

That process moved forward on Monday when the Parliament voted to expand its membership to add 200 legislators from the ranks of the moderate Islamists. The new members are to be sworn in on Wednesday, bringing the total number of seats to 550.

The Parliament also hopes to elect a new president within five days, according to local radio reports, to replace Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former warlord who was widely accused of trying to thwart peace negotiations and who resigned as president in December.

Around 3,000 African Union peacekeepers are in Somalia, trying to protect the few government enclaves.

They have increasingly come under attack by the Shabab and other militias.

The Bush administration had pressed for a larger international force for Somalia, which it feared could become a base for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. But the proposal met with little international support.

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