Garowe Online (Garowe)

2 February 2009

Somalia: Al Shabaab Declare War On New President

Islamist militants who spearheaded a bloody insurgency in Somalia have declared war on the Horn of Africa country's new president, even as a global council of Islamic scholars issued a document supporting him, Radio Garowe reports.

Sheikh Hassan Yakub, spokesman for the Al Shabaab rulers in the port of Kismayo, 500km south of the capital Mogadishu, said the war will continue until Islamic law is restored across Somalia.

Sheikh Hassan Yakub, Al Shabaab spokesman in Kismayo

"Sheikh Sharif declared jihad in 2006 and now he chose America over Islam," Sheikh Yakub said.

He accused Sheikh Sharif of choosing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) constitution instead of the Qur'an, the source of Islamic teachings and jurisprudence.

"Ethiopia invaded our country [Somalia] with support from the international community, but we removed them [Ethiopian army] by force and war," he added.

Sheikh Yakub said foreign governments are interfering in Somalia's political affairs, while suggesting that Sheikh Sharif's election victory was "organized by the enemies of Islam."

Al Shabaab fighters control the key towns of Kismayo, Marka and Baidoa in the southern regions. The Islamist faction broke off from the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which was led by Sheikh Sharif in 2006.

Endorsement

A global council of Islamic scholars, chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Al Qardawi, has called on Al Shabaab and the Eritrea-based Islamist hardliners led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys to support President Sheikh Sharif's new government.

"The Islamist groups are expected to work with Sheikh Sharif and to help restore security in Somalia," read a document issued by the Islamic clerics.

Sheikh Al Qardawi said the Islamic group is ready to dispatch scholars to Somalia in an effort aimed at mediating among Islamist factions, adding that the mediation process can take place anytime or anywhere.

Mediation efforts undertaken by Somali Muslim scholars have largely failed, further deepening the divide among ICU factions.

New President Sheikh Sharif, 43, inherits a country torn apart of 18 years of civil war and drought, worsened only by a brutal two-year Ethiopian military occupation.

Observers agree that the new leader must build a broad-based government of national unity and gain financial support from the international community.

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