Somali president warns of terrorist threat

The Somali president has warned that “terrorists” were threatening his shattered country’s security and slammed international donors for failing to help as promised, in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

An Ethiopian-backed government offensive in Mogadishu last month ended weeks of clashes with Islamist-led insurgents that killed hundreds of civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee, but sporadic attacks are again on the increase.

“My government was battling terrorists who lost their strongholds militarily in Mogadishu, but they are still at large by hiding in the towns and villages,” Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed said late on Sunday at his official residence, Villa Somalia, which has been a target of mortar attacks.

“We don’t believe the threats of terrorists are over as some of them are abroad still planning to create havoc again,” he said.

Four Ugandan peacekeepers from an African Union force were killed in a bomb attack on their convoy last week, and the prime minister and mayor of Mogadishu both escaped unharmed from roadside bomb attacks in recent days.

Yusuf, who was elected president in 2004, also launched a scathing attack on international donors for failing to provide more help.

“The outside world promised a reconstruction plan with a full package to develop the lives of Somalis in war-torn Somalia but efforts of the international community are confined to meagre humanitarian work,” he said.

“The United States is appreciating our struggle against terrorism but did not give any tangible assistance to reconstruct a devastated nation. Even the United Nations has yet to take drastic action to assist to rebuild Somalia,” he added.

“I don’t know what is true and what is false when it concerns the international community. I don’t appreciate hypocrisy.”

For their part, international aid groups say they are struggling to deliver vital food and supplies to the tens of thousands displaced by recent fighting in Mogadishu because of continued insecurity.

Various Western donors, including the US and the European Union, have pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Somalia, and also to fund the AU peacekeeping mission.

But the international community has been hesitant to pledge further money before seeing the outcome of a broad inter-clan Somali reconciliation conference, due to start on June 14.

Yusuf said the commission tasked with organising the conference had revised the expected number of participants downwards from 3 000 to around 1 325 due to logistical constraints.

The conference, first planned for April 14, has been pushed back several times because of insecurity in Mogadishu and difficulties in gathering funding.

The government has said it needs $42,2-million for the meeting but the new US envoy to Somalia, John Yates, said last week that the international community may offer less.

Yusuf reiterated that leaders of the defeated Islamic Courts Union (ICU) could only take part in the conference as representatives of their clans, not of their movement—a position they reject.

“ICU represents threats to national security,” he said.

The ICU controlled much of south and central Somalia, including Mogadishu, for six months last year before it was ousted in January by Ethiopian and Somali government troops with the support of the US.

Somalia has been without an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre sparked a bloody power struggle that has defied numerous attempts to restore stability.

The Somali president called for help to complete the latest peacekeeping force there, from the African Union, which is struggling to carry out its remit.

So far, 1 500 Ugandan soldiers from a planned 8 000-strong force are in Mogadishu, but other countries that have promised troops, including Nigeria and Burundi, have yet to send them.

“The brotherly African countries that pledged troops are very ready to send contingents but they need logistical support, weapons and other financial support,” Yusuf said.—Sapa-AFP

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