No solution but war, says Somali Islamist leader

There is “no solution but war” to solve Somalia’s problems, and Somali Islamists must re-arm and fight, a long-time hard-line Islamist leader linked to al-Qaeda said on Monday.

In a rare interview, Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki urged the United Nations not to send soldiers to shore up an African Union peacekeeping force and Ethiopian soldiers who are backing the interim government’s fight against a 17-month-old insurgency.

“There is no solution except war,” Turki (65) told Reuters by radio phone from an undisclosed location in southern Somalia, where security experts say he runs training camps for Somali Islamist insurgents.

Turki is head of training for the al-Shabaab group, which is waging an Iraq-style insurgency against President Abdullahi Yusuf’s government. He was among the suspected targets of a United Sates air strike in March near Dhobley along the Kenyan border.

The insurgency has killed at least 6 500 people and sent more than 600 000 fleeing the capital, Mogadishu, since starting early in 2007.

“All foreign troops are like united lions that devour us. We shall not tire from fighting them.
Let every Somali take his guns and knives. We shall never have peace until we chase the Ethiopians out of our country.”

The US in 2004 listed Turki as an associate of al-Qaeda and a faction leader of al-Itihaad al-Islaami, a militant Somali group that emerged in the early 1990s and that Washington listed as a terrorist organisation after the September 11 attacks.

According to a 1998 federal indictment against Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaeda group has been in Somalia since 1993, when its fighters went there to fight alongside warlords battling a US-UN peacekeeping mission.

‘Fight our enemy’

Security experts say al-Itihaad, then fighting to make Somalia an Islamic republic, helped al-Qaeda operatives back then and later when they planned deadly 1998 bomb attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Turki joined the Somali Islamic Courts Council (SICC), which in the second half of 2006 took over most of southern Somalia and imposed sharia law by force after defeating a coalition of warlords.

The Islamist group has since split into factions, and a more moderate wing is in UN-backed talks with the interim government in neighbouring Djibouti.

“The talks in Djibouti will never change anything. I urge our colleagues to come back, take their guns and fight our enemy. We shall defeat Ethiopians, Burundians, Ugandans and the coming UN forces as we defeated the warlords,” Turki said.

Ethiopia has pledged not to withdraw its soldiers until all “jihadist” groups are eliminated from the country.

Ethiopian troops joined Somali forces in late 2006 and early 2007 to scatter the SICC with covert US support.

Somalia has been at war since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Yusuf’s interim government, since its inception in 2004, has struggled against infighting and daunting security challenges in one of the world’s most lawless and well-armed nations.—Reuters

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