Islamist guerrillas leading an insurgency in Somalia say they will not talk with the country’s interim government even if foreign troops withdraw.
Muktar Robow “Abu Mansur,” spokesman for the al-Shabaab fighters, told Mogadishu-based Radio Somaliweyn during a Tuesday interview that President Abdullahi Yusuf and other government officials “should be brought to court.”
“We will not accept anything short of Ethiopian troops and the group that supports them led by [President] Abdullahi Yusuf to leave the country,” the al-Shabaab spokesman said.
He stated that the al-Shabaab guerrillas will reach their goal “by continuing the jihad.”
Abu Mansur indicated that the idea of an Arab government mediating between al-Shabaab and the Somali government is an “impossible dream.”
“We will not accept talks with [President] Abdullahi’s group, because to us they are the same as the Ethiopians,” Abu Mansur said, adding: “If we agree with them [Somali government], then why don’t also we agree with Ethiopia?”
He maintained that the only way Somalia will find peace again is through the implementation of Islamic rule, as was done in 2006 when the Islamic Courts Union ruled Mogadishu and most south-central regions.
Al-Shabaab fighters formed the armed core of the Islamic Courts movement, but recent reports indicate that the group has split from the Islamists’ top leadership, who now live in exile in Eritrea.
Senior Islamic Courts leaders have suggested that they are willing to negotiate with the Somali government if the Ethiopian army withdraws from the country. Experts say al-Shabaab’s hardline stance is another indication that the two groups are no longer united.
Prime Minister Nur “Adde” Hassan Hussein said last week that his government is wiling to engage in direct talks with all opposition groups, including al-Shabaab. [ Full story]
He has pursued an open reconciliation agenda and has repeatedly invited the opposition to peace talks, but armed groups have shown no sign of decelerating their guerrilla attacks on Somali and Ethiopian government troops.
On Tuesday, at least three dead bodies laced with gunshot wounds were discovered in different parts of Mogadishu, with residents saying the civilian victims died in heavy fighting that rocked the capital last Saturday.
Somalia’s national capital has seen little but violence since January 2007, when the Ethiopian army invaded the country and overthrew the Islamist leadership in Mogadishu.
Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands others displaced by the war, which many consider to be U.S. President George Bush’s third front in the “Global War on Terror.”
Yesterday, U.S. warships launched cruise missiles into a village in southern Somalia, with U.S. officials claiming the military targeted suspected al Qaeda hideouts.
But the village mayor told CNN that six civilians were killed in the missile strike.