Somalia opposition rivals at 'point of no return'

Hard-line Somali Islamist Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said on Monday the exiled opposition would not negotiate with a rival faction that signed a peace deal with Somalia’s transitional government.

Splits in the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) could further complicate peace prospects in the Horn of Africa nation, which has suffered 17 years of civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands.

“Reconciliation would be good, but we and the Djibouti group have reached a point of no return,” said Aweys, who is on a United States and United Nations list of al-Qaeda associates.

“It’s obvious they will not come back and join us,” he told Reuters from Asmara.

A faction led by moderate Sheikh Sharif Ahmed signed a pact in Djibouti with the interim government in June, outlining the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and the deployment of UN peacekeepers. The formal signing is to take place in Mecca.

But Aweys, some other ARS officials and insurgents in Somalia have rejected the deal.

Aweys said last week that he had taken charge of the exiled opposition, but UN envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah dismissed Aweys’s announcement and said Sheikh Sharif remained the recognised leader.

Rebels have been battling Ethiopian and Somali government troops since early 2007 after Addis Ababa sent thousands of soldiers to help Somalia’s administration oust the Islamic Courts movement led by Aweys and Ahmed.

Since then, near-daily violence of roadside bombs, mortar attacks and assassinations have wrecked the Somali capital. In the latest violence, mortars killed five people in northern Mogadishu in overnight clashes.
Insecurity and attacks in southern Somalia have forced many aid groups to scale down or halt humanitarian operations to cope with one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.—Reuters

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