10 February 2009

Somalia: Tensions in Southwest Between Govt Forces, Al Shabaab

Military tensions are growing in a town in southwestern Somalia after Islamist guerrillas reportedly reached the outskirts of a provincial capital, Radio Garowe reports.

The Al Shabaab fighters were dispatched from Baidoa, the capital of Bay region that served as the seat of parliament in recent years.

Government officials who fled Baidoa under armed escort had reportedly set up base in Huddur, capital of neighboring Bakool region, vowing to retake Baidoa from the Islamists.

Senior Baidoa officials, including Bay Gov. Abdifatah Mohamed Gesey, has accused former Cabinet minister and ex-warlord Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade of "aiding" Al Shabaab as the Islamist hardliners took control of Baidoa following the Ethiopian army pullout.

Mr. Habsade, who remains a member of the Somali parliament, reportedly met with Al Shabaab spokesman Muktar Robow "Abu Mansur" where the two men decided a safe exit out of Baidoa after the town's most notorious warlord surrendered his weapons over to Al Shabaab.

Some Islamist groups have rejected the new government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, elected to lead the war-torn Horn of Africa country for a two-year interim period.

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