6 May 2009

Somalia: Al Shabaab to 'Continue War' Even If African Union Withdraws

Islamist hardliners in southern Somalia have vowed that the ongoing war will continue whether or not African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) withdraw from Somalia, Radio Garowe reports.

Sheikh Hassan Yakub, spokesman for the Al Shabaab rulers in the southern port of Kismayo, told reporters Wednesday that Al Shabaab "intends to stop sin."

"The ongoing war in the country [Somalia] is a jihad that will not stop even if AMISOM leaves, because our war is not only against them [AMISOM] but also against the government of [Somali President] Sheikh Sharif," Sheikh Yakub said.

Al Shabaab

He compared Sheikh Sharif to ex-Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, saying: "It will not happen that we will stop the war against Sheikh Sharif when we fought against Abdullahi Yusuf, who also had a constitution."

The Al Shabaab spokesman in Kismayo said the jihad was "ordered by Allah [God] and His Messenger" [Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him] and will continue "until there is no obstacle to Islamic rule."

Last month, Somalia's parliament passed Islamic Shari'ah law as the country's national legislation, largely seen as a move to appease the armed opposition of Islamists.

But Islamist hardliners have rejected the Shari'ah law vote, accusing President Sheikh Sharif of being a puppet of the West.

The Government of National Unity was created in Jan. 2009 after the Transitional Federal Government and the opposition faction Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia merged at the conclusion of U.N.-endorsed peace talks.

The new government still functions under the 2004 Transitional Federal Charter, with legal experts raising concern about how to harmonize the secular charter with Shari'ah law.

Somali government officials have publicly and privately assured Western nations and the world-at-large that the Shari'ah law passed by the parliament in April will not be the "harsh version" desired by Islamist hardliners, like Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

The U.S. government considers Al Shabaab to be a terrorist organization.

Somalia has been mired in armed conflict since the outbreak of civil war in 1991. President Sheikh Sharif's interim government is the 15th attempt to restore national order with the help of the international community.

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