12 April 2009

Somalia: Islamist Rebel Leaders Hail Pirate Attacks

Rebel leaders in southern Somalia associated with Islamist factions have hailed recent pirate attacks off the coast of the Horn of Africa region, Radio Garowe reports.

In separate comments, Al Shabaab spokesman Muktar Robow "Abu Mansur" and Ras Kamboni Brigade leader Sheikh Hassan Abdullahi "Turki" have hailed ship-hijackings by Somali pirates.

In Baidoa, capital of Bay region, Abu Mansur told reporters that the pirates are "protecting the Somali coast."

"Foreign powers want to divide the country [Somalia] and the pirates are protecting the coast against the enemies of Allah [God]," Abu Mansur said.

He condemned the interim government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, saying the government "sold the sea" to the neighboring Republic of Kenya.

Abu Mansur said Somali Planning Minister Abdirahman Abdishakur signed the controversial Memorandum of Understanding between Kenya and Somalia after "pressure from Western governments."

'Pirates are Mujahideen'

Separately, Sheikh Turki, a notorious Islamist guerrilla leader accused of terror ties by the U.S. government, told supporters in the southern port city of Kismayo that Kenya "will not be allowed one meter of Somalia."

He criticized Somali pirates as "money-seekers," but praised pirate attacks: "I can say the pirates are part of the Mujahideen [religious fighters], because they are in a war with Christian countries who want to misuse the Somali coast."

Sheikh Turki specifically commended Somali pirates for kidnapping Mr. Richard Phillips, the American captain of the Maersk Alabama vessel that escaped a pirate attack last week. He is still being held hostage by pirates.

"We will fight against Kenya and any other country if they try to take away Somali territory or waters," Sheikh Turki said.

He accused the government of President Sheikh Sharif, the former leader of Somali Islamists, of "lacking funds" and "failing to get a grant from the Arab countries" as reasons for "selling the sea" to Kenya.

He condemned recent fighting between Al Shabaab and Ahlu Sunnah fighters in the central region of Galgadud, saying: "It is unfortunate but the other group is only using the Ahlu Sunnah name."

Sheikh Turki's Ras Kamboni Brigade merged forces with other Islamist factions in Jan. 2009, forming the new group Hizbul Islam [Party of Islam].

Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam factions have rejected Somalia's new government and vowed to wage war until foreign troops withdraw from Somali soil.

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