13 February 2008

Somalia: Insurgents Will Not Get Power Through Violence - Minister

Somalia's ports and transport minister, Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, indicated on Wednesday the country's insurgents intend on taking political power by violent force.

"The anti-government groups have made it normal to kill people and blow up things in order to reach the seat of power, but this is not possible," Minister Habsade told a crowd gathered in front of the Lower Shabelle provincial headquarters in the port town of Marka.

The transport minister is currently visiting Marka alongside a government delegation that includes Interior Minister Muse Nur Amin and lawmaker Yusuf Mire Serar.

A spokesman for the delegation said the federal government is touring the region after speculation that insurgents operate there.

In recent months, Lower Shabelle region has been hit hard by violence between members of the police force and the military, with locals saying the two groups disagree over control of government checkpoints.

Speaking to the crowd today, Transport Minister Habsade said the insurgents are "causing a lot of problems" and urged them to address grievances through peace and dialogue.

"I don't know anywhere in the Islamic religion where it says kill Muslims to reach the seat of power...I don't think their [insurgents] intention is Islam but to take power and that can only happen through talks," Habsade told the crowd.

He reminded the insurgents that their Somali victims are Muslims. He then screamed "I am a Muslim!" and demanded that the insurgents kill him if they are among the crowd, witnesses told Garowe Online.

Habsade, a former Baidoa warlord, was retained in Prime Minister Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein's new government, which is smaller than that of his predecessor.

The transport minister's comments come amid relentless guerrilla attacks that have rocked the capital Mogadishu and other parts of the country since January 2007.

On Wednesday, suspected insurgents shot and killed a soldier and wounded another soldier in Mogadishu's Dharkinley district before escaping, witnesses reported.

The Mogadishu insurgency has killed upwards of 6,000 civilians and displaced more than half a million people from the seaside capital, according to the United Nations and local human rights groups.

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