The leader of an armed group in Somalia has urged followers to attack foreign peacekeeping troops being sent to support the fledgling government in Mogadishu.
The call by Osman Ali Ato, a government minister, for Somalis to attack troops from historic foe Ethiopia revealed fresh signs of division in the new government under President Abb Allahi Yusuf Ahmad – elected at peace talks in Kenya.
Diplomats said the remarks by Mogadishu militia chief Ato boded ill for a peace mission agreed to this week by the 53-nation African Union (AU), which plans to send troops shortly from five countries - including Ethiopia - to shore up the new government.
The government, which has remained in Kenya's relative safety since its formation, plans to return to Somalia on 21 February.
Call for attacks
Ato, who is housing minister in the government, said in a radio interview broadcast on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday that Ahmad's new government did not need AU help to stabilise Somalia, which plunged into chaos with the 1991 overthrow of ruler Mohamed Siad Barre.
The militia chief echoed a widespread view of Ahmad and his closest colleagues as northerners manipulated by Addis Ababa.
"I urge all Somali people to prepare to fight against our enemies, be they Ethiopians or Somalis," Ato told Radio Shabelle from Kenya, where he and most of his colleagues are still based.
"President Abd Allahi Yusuf [Ahmad] is the first person who wants clashes between Ethiopians and Somalis."