Foreign fighters invade Somalia, claims president

Somalia’s embattled president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, on Monday condemned what he described as an invasion by foreign fighters amid claims of jihadists flooding into the country in recent months.

“Somalia is being invaded by foreign fighters, whose main purpose is to turn the country into an Afghanistan or an Iraq,” Sharif said at a press conference in his office.

“We call on the international community and the Somali people to help us in fighting against them.”

According to Somali security officials and foreign intelligence sources in the region, there are up to 500 foreign jihadist fighters in the troubled country, most of whom arrived over the past few months.

Inspired by al-Qaeda ideology, these foreign fighters—from Arab, Asian as well as European countries—are believed to have assisted Somali insurgents in their latest offensive against Sharif’s fledgling administration.

Hardline insurgents launched a nationwide military push against pro-government forces on May 7, leaving Sharif and a handful of Cabinet members holed up in the presidential compound in Mogadishu.

In his rare press conference, the internationally backed president of Somalia’s transitional administration praised what he described as “freedom fighting” by citizens spontaneously rising up against the insurgents.

“We welcome the efforts by Somali freedom fighters in some of the regions to fight against the culprits and the foreign fighters they brought the country,” he said.

The rebel push is spearheaded by two armed groups: the al-Shabaab, a hardline military movement with suspected links to al-Qaeda, and Hezb al-Islamiya, a more political group loyal to influential cleric Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.—Sapa-AFP

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