Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Somolia is pretty much screwed.

Africa: You can see where this is headed.

NAIROBI, Kenya – The radical cleric named to lead the Muslim militia controlling most of Somalia's south said Monday that he envisions an Islamic state, a stand likely to reinforce U.S. fears the nation could become a haven for extremists. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who already was on the U.S. terrorist watch list as a suspected collaborator with al-Qaeda, made the comment while discussing efforts to form a functioning central government in Somalia for the first time in 15 years. “Somalia is a Muslim nation and its people are also Muslim, 100 percent. Therefore any government we agree on would be based on the holy Quran and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad,” Aweys told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, his first comments to the media since being named head of the Islamic militia Saturday. The militia defeated an alliance of U.S.-backed secular warlords this month to take control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and now holds sway over much of southern Somalia. Aweys' stance could put Somalia on a collision course with the United States and the United Nations. The previous militia leader, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, had been reaching out to the West and Somalia's largely powerless U.N.-backed interim government. ....Omar Jamal, director of the Somali Justice and Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minn., a hub for expatriate Somalis, said he was troubled by Aweys' rise to power. “The election of Aweys is a clear signal that the moderates are losing, and extremists are taking the lead, and now the next possible step is that they will impose a Taliban style of government,” he said, referring to the strict Islamic militia that was ousted by a U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Underlining the apparent tougher line, militia leaders said Monday that they will publicly stone to death four suspected rapists if they are convicted in Jowhar, 55 miles from Mogadishu. The appointment of Aweys as the group's leader is likely to stoke Washington's long-standing concern that Somalia will become a refuge for members of bin Laden's terror network, much like Afghanistan did in the late 1990s.

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