28 March 2008

Somalia: PM Dismisses Reports Town Captured

Addis Ababa — Somalia Prime Minster Nur Hassan Hussein has dismissed a report in the Ethiopian media that Islamists have taken control of the strategic Somali town of Jowhar, 90 kilometres north of Mogadishu.

Speaking to journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday, Mr Hussein said, "It's not true; it was a hit-and-run attack against the administration in Jowhar this morning by an opposition group but Jowhar is now under our control and law and order have been restored."

Earlier, Islamist fighters had announced that they had taken control of Jowhar after a bloody battle with Transitional Federal Government troops.

The prime minister, however, acknowledged that the humanitarian situation in his country is getting worse and is a challenge to humanitarian organisations.

Humanitarian crisis

"It is true that we have a large number of displaced and suffering people. There are certain obstacles hampering humanitarian operations.

"The transitional government is trying its best to cope with the situation and to facilitate access to the affected areas despite the difficulties," he said.

He also promised to facilitate access to the affected areas, as well as to establish a contact point for humanitarian operations in the country.

Forty aid agencies have called on the international community to give immediate attention to the situation in Somalia.

Italy has donated 10 million euros (Sh1.01 billion) to the African Union as part of the Italian-African peace facility package.

During the signing of the documents for the aid package at the African Union headquarters, Mr Hussein underlined the importance of such support in helping establish peace and stability in the war-torn country.

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