By Khaled Mahmoud
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed Somali sources have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has been in contact with officials from Al-Hawiya tribe, the largest tribe which controls Mogadishu, in a bid to convince the military wing of the Islamic Courts organization in the capital to agree to a truce and a ceasefire between the two sides.
This comes at a time when the Al-Mujahidin Youth movement announced that it had penetrated the defense lines of the Ethiopian forces based in the capital Mogadishu, and that it carried out an operation that it said was unprecedented.
The sources said that the mediation efforts led by former Somali interior minister Muhammad Mahmud Guled were aimed at inducing the Islamic Courts to halt their military activity in Mogadishu in return for its participation in peace negotiations sponsored by the UN, the Arab League, and the European Union. They said there has been relative progress in the negotiations over the past two days but denied there have been direct talks between the military wing of the Courts and the Somali Government.
The sources added that the negotiations are taking place through the clan leaders of the Al-Hawiya tribe and that there was still a possibility of a positive outcome emerging in the coming period.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf meanwhile accused the Al-Qaeda organization of launching a wide-scale terror war against his Government in several parts of the country and of supporting the armed movements that oppose him.
Yusuf’s aides who spoke with Asharq Al-Awsat on his behalf affirmed that Al-Qaeda has very active elements within Somalia. He said that Somalia is waging a ferocious war in an attempt to block what he called terrorist groups from continuing to shake the security and stability of the state that has been in a grueling civil war for the past 17 years.
The Somali President told Asharq Al-Awsat through his aide that the bombing carried out lately by US warplanes against the locations of Al-Qaeda and those affiliated to it in southern Somalia were undertaken with his knowledge and approval. « We and the Americans are partners in combating terrorism and our interests are identical in eradicating terrorists and preventing them from turning the country into a safe haven for terror, » he said.
According to his aide, Yusuf also stressed that his security bodies had full information about the parties that finance those terrorists, the names of the terrorists, and the places where they were located as well as their nationalities as they try to hit the stability and to prolong the civil war in his country. He disclosed that there were foreigners from Al-Qaeda inside Somalia to bolster the abilities of the armed movements that are hostile to the Transitional Government he has headed since October, 2004.
Yusuf urged the international community to extend all the necessary financial and logistical support to his Government’s efforts to combat terrorism, considering that without acquiring such support the terrorist danger increases in light of the limited capabilities at the disposal of his Government. The Somali President reiterated that he will not negotiate with any person whose hands are stained with the blood of the Somali people and who has worked to procure foreign terrorists from Al-Qaeda to come to his country, pointing out that the war on terrorism is long and complex and that it needs patience and biding of time.
Meanwhile the extremist Al-Mujahidin Youth movement, which is against Yusuf and the foreign military presence in Somalia, announced that it carried out yesterday a bold operation against the Ethiopian forces which it described as the first of its type. It said its elements penetrated the main defense line of the Ethiopian forces on Al-Thalathin Street in the Somali capital after a vicious battle along the length of the street and in the neighboring villages, according to a statement from the movement of which Asharq Al-Awsat received a copy. « We were able to eradicate a large number of Ethiopians from the first defenses between the crossing of Barabj and Black Sea (in the capital) stretching eastward to Libatgh and westward to the milk plant, » it said. The movement provided no details on losses sustained by the Ethiopian Army or its elements, but it said that Ethiopian tanks responded by random firing without inflicting any casualties among its elements.
An African Union official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said that the AU was facing a real problem in providing the necessary funds for the African peace forces in Somalia. He said this was a recurrent problem whenever the time comes to pay the salaries of the soldiers from Burundi and Uganda, adding that this impeded the task of these forces in preserving peace and restoring security to the Somali capital. Uganda’s Defense Minister said yesterday in Kampala that his country cannot abide by its offer to assume full control of the peacekeeping mission in Somalia because « no one has extended the necessary funds …
Contrary to the promises made to us, there are no funds to transport the soldiers or assume peacekeeping in Somalia ».