INTERVIEW-Somali PM says little hope of talks with insurgents
Wed May 20, 2009 2:43pm
* Little hope of talking to hardline Islamist rebels * Foreign fighters in
Somalia must be eradicated * Evidence Eritrea supplying insurgents with weapons
By Abdiaziz Hassan
MOGADISHU, May 20 (Reuters) - Somalia's prime minister said on Wednesday there
was little hope of negotiating with hardline Islamist insurgents because they
had no political agenda and just wanted to use the Horn of Africa nation as a
Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was appointed by Somalia's first
Islamist president earlier this year and said in February he hoped to use
dialogue to end the violence that has plagued the country for nearly two
But hardline Islamist groups that Washington accuses of having links to al
Qaeda, along with foreign fighters, are battling government forces in some of
the fiercest clashes the anarchic country has seen for months.
"I do not think they have a political agenda. I believe these foreign fighters
want to keep this country in chaos so they can have a safe haven and a hideout,"
"I don't think there is a chance to just sit with them and discuss issues with
these people. The only way to deal with them that they can understand is to
fight, and we are prepared to eradicate them," he told Reuters in an interview.
The United Nations says there are hundreds of foreign fighters from Africa, Asia
and elsewhere in the rebel ranks. Neighbouring states and Western security
forces fear the country could become a base for al Qaeda-linked Islamist
Somalia's nine million people have paid a heavy price for the chaos and
violence. More than one million live as internal refugees and hundreds of
thousands have poured across the borders into neighbours Kenya, Ethiopia and
Djibouti. Piracy is rampant off Somalia with nearly 30 hijackings so far this
year in some of the world's busiest sea lanes. Naval vessels from the United
States, EU and other nations have been drawn into patrolling the waters off
WEAPONS FROM ERITREA
Sharmarke said government forces were chasing some 300 foreign fighters in the
ranks of hardline group al Shabaab out of Mogadishu, but there were more outside
"Shabaab and its foreign fighters can never govern. They can go to a town, hit
and run, destroy it and terrorise the people, but these people have no capacity,
capability and moral support to govern," he said.
"I still wonder how people can keep fighting with no objectives. On top of that
they have failed to use religion as a tool. These guys have violated every
principle in Islam, and still claim they are Islamists."
Al Shabaab fighters control much of southern and central Somalia. While they
have brought security to some areas, their strict interpretation of Islamic law
has angered some Somalis who are traditionally more moderate.
This week, al Shabaab and allied group Hizbul Islam have been fighting the Sunni
Islamst group Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, which objects to acts against Islam such as
the killing of religious leaders and the desecration of graves.
Sharmarke blamed Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki for supplying the insurgents
with weapons. Earlier on Wednesday, the east African bloc IGAD called on the
United Nations to impose immediate sanctions on Eritrea.
Eritrea said earlier this month it was sick of the persistent accusations and in
turn accused Western powers of interfering in Somalia and fuelling strife.
"We have enough evidence that Eritrea is supplying weapons to Somali factions,
so many flights have actually arrived. And that is very sad," said Sharmarke.
(Writing by David Clarke; Editing by Janet McBride)