28 June 2009

Somalia: President Sheikh Sharif Accuses Eritrea of Aiding Insurgents

Mogadishu — Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the Somali president, told a Sunday press conference at the Villa Somalia presidential palace that "Eritrean officers" are helping Somali insurgents fighting the government in Mogadishu.

"I used to be friends with Sheikh Hassan Dahir [Aweys] but now he has Eritrean officers with him leading the fight," said the Somali leader, who fled to Eritrea in early 2007 after Ethiopian troops intervened in south-central Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts movement, which was led by Sharif and Aweys.

He said Sheikh Aweys, who is chairman of Hizbul Islam rebel faction, has "committed a huge crime" against the Somali people.

"If he [Aweys] wants power, he must follow the road of peace and reconciliation and these battles are unnecessary," President Sheikh Sharif said.

He also accused Somali insurgents of "hosting Al Qaeda leaders" who have introduced new methods of violence such as "beheadings and suicide bombings" to the Somali conflict.

"Somalia is a Muslim country and it does not need a new war using Islam as an excuse...the foreign fighters want to keep Somalia in chaos," President Sheikh Sharif.

Insurgent mortars targeted the Villa Somalia presidential compound where President Sheikh Sharif was holding the conference, forcing government forces to respond with artillery fire. At least five people in the attacks.

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