23 May 2008

Somalia: Islamist Rebels in Secret Deal With Kismayo Port Militia

Islamist rebels spearheading a bloody insurgency against Somalia's UN-endorsed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have entered into a secretive agreement with the clan militia ruling the southern port of Kismayo, reliable local sources tell Garowe Online.

Earlier this week, Kismayo's ruling clan militia leaders met secretly with guerrilla commanders loyal to the Islamic Courts and al Shabaab, splinter groups within Somalia's fractured Islamist movement.

The meeting took place in the outskirts of Kismayo, where clan militia leaders met with Islamist guerrillas led by an individual named Fu'ad Shangole, according to our sources.

Mr. Hassan "Dheere" Mohamed, spokesman for the clan militia, led clan representatives who have controlled the strategic port of Kismayo since June 2007.

Several issues were discussed at length during the meet, including a "joint strategy" to fight against the Ethiopian-backed TFG in Mogadishu and across the country; and the profit-sharing of Kismayo's port revenues.

According to the sources, the Kismayo clan militia will continue to maintain control of the port and the region, but offer percentage shares to the Islamic Courts and al Shabaab.

While the Kismayo militia receives 40% of revenues, the two Islamist groups would receive 30% each under the tentative agreement that has not been announced to the public yet.

In turn, Islamist guerrillas would publicly declare that there are no intentions to invade Kismayo and expel the ruling clan.

Unconfirmed reports tell Garowe Online that the rebel commanders have demanded that Mr. Barre "Hirale" Adan Shire, former Kismayo warlord and ex-TFG defense chief, leave the town.

Barre Hirale fought against the Islamic Courts movement during the December 2006 war between Ethiopian-backed TFG troops and the Islamists, who ruled Mogadishu at the time.

The secretive meeting between the Kismayo-based clan militia and Islamist guerrillas was preceded by the Islamists' takeover of towns in Middle Jubba and Lower Jubba regions last week. [ READ: Somali Rebels Seize Two More Towns]

Kismayo's clan leaders had issued strong messages then, warning that the Islamist advance towards the southern port town would lead to war.

In March, the U.S. State Department officially added al Shabaab to the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The armed group's wanted leader, Sheikh Adan Hashi Ayro, was killed during a May 1 air strike in central Somalia carried out by the U.S. military.

Somalia's government has been unable to rule Kismayo due to several factors, including lack of resources and Ethiopia's relations with rival Somali clans.

Observers say Kismayo's ruling clan is playing a double game of offering lip service of loyalty to the TFG, while conducting secret dealings with the Somali government's main enemies.

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