Somali warlord hands over weapons, forces to army
Sunday, January 21, 2007
MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The last major warlord to withhold support from Somalia's government surrendered his weapons and militiamen on Saturday -- a boost for a fledgling leadership that still faces threats of guerrilla attacks from the Islamic movement that fled the capital.
Mohamed Dheere, one of the most feared warlords in Somalia, gave the army chief 23 trucks mounted with heavy weapons and ordered 220 of his fighters to report for training at government camps. The handover took place during a ceremony in Dheere's stronghold of Jowhar, 50 miles north of the capital of Mogadishu, said Abdirahman Dinari, the government spokesman.
But fears of an Islamic fundamentalist insurgency grew following an ambush Saturday morning on a convoy of Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu. The Ethiopians returned fire, killing a man and a woman on the side of the road, said Hawa Malin, a Mogadishu resident who saw the attack. Two other people died on the way to the hospital, medical officials said.
Late Friday, government troops also repelled an attack on the Somali president's palace. There were no reports of casualties.
A leader in Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts said his group was responsible for the attacks, calling it part of a "new uprising by the Somali people."
"The only solution can be reconciliation and talks between the transitional federal government and the Islamic courts," said Ahmed Qare, deputy chairman of the council.
The U.N.-backed government -- with key military backing from Ethiopia -- drove the Islamic movement that had challenged it out of Mogadishu and much of the rest of southern Somalia weeks ago. But Islamic leaders have repeatedly threatened a guerrilla war as long as Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia to support the government.
The United States and the European Union have called on the government to hold broad-based peace talks to promote reconciliation, but so far only clan leaders and warlords have been involved in the process and religious leaders have been excluded.
The government has asked African peacekeepers to maintain security in the country, but they are unlikely to come if fighting continues. African Union officials approved an 8,000-peacekeeper mission on Friday, but only Uganda has volunteered troops thus far.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, reducing the Horn of Africa nation to anarchy and clan-based violence.