Somali rebel leader calls for more attacks on peacekeeping forces
Mogadishu: The radical Islamist rebel leader of Somalia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, has called for more suicide attacks against forces of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), days after deadly twin suicide car bombs targeted the troops` headquarters in Mogadishu.
Aways, who heads the armed opposition Islamist faction of Hezbul Islam, was speaking on Sunday after a mass prayer on the outskirts of Mogadishu to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr festival marking the end of the month-long fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"I ask Somali Muslim people to carry out more suicide attacks against the African Union enemy forces in Mogadishu," Aweys told people at the annual gathering held in his group`s stronghold of Elashabiyaha, 18 km west of Mogadishu.
The call comes less than a week after the AU forces were targeted by two suicide car bombs that left 21 people, including 17 peacekeepers, dead and wounding as many as 40 others.
The attack, strongly condemned by Somali government and the international community, was claimed by the other more hardline Islamist movement of Al-Shabaab which controls much of the south and centre of the war ravaged country.
Nearly 5,000 African Union peacekeeping forces from Burundi and Uganda are currently stationed in the Somali capital Mogadishu providing protection to senior Somali government officials and main installations in the coastal city including the sea and air ports, the presidential residence and the roads linking them.
Aweys, who is wanted by the US for links with terrorism, accused Washington of meddling in Mogadishu`s affairs and of supporting what he calls "the apostate government" of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist who was once an ally of Aweys but broke ranks over reconciliation with the then former Somali government early last year.
The firebrand cleric condemned the recent killing by US air raid in south Somalia of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan national who was prominent member of Al-Shabaab but wanted by Washington for links with bombings in Mombasa, coastal city in Kenya.
Aweys, whose group is waging a deadly insurgency against Somali government and AU forces, reiterated his call for the African Union peacekeeping forces to leave Somalia, a country that lacked functioning government for the past nineteen years
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