The Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), launched on Saturday in southern Mogadishu, aims to play a major role in fighting terrorism in the country that has lacked a functional government for the last 15 years, officials with ties to the party said on Tuesday.

 

Witnesses said this week's fighting in southern Mogadishu, which left at least 18 people dead and displaced hundreds of others, had set ARPCT-backed armed men against Islamic courts militia.

 

Critics have accused the Islamic courts, which have set up a form of quasi-judicial system in Mogadishu, of having links to the al-Qaida network.

 

Members of the ARPCT, headquartered is in the capital's Daynile district, include regional commanders Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, Musa Sudi Yalahow, Omar Mohamoud Finish and Botan Issa and Bashir Raghe Shirar, the officials said.

  

Al-Qaida base?

 

Western intelligence group have long warned that the world's failure to support efforts to stabilise lawless Somalia risked turning the country into a breeding ground for Islamic extremism. 

 

President Ahmed is himself a
faction leader 

Last year, the International Crisis Group (ICG) repeated the warning but said that although some militant Islamic groups, including those with alleged ties to al-Qaida, were using Somalia as a base, there was little sign that they had more than cursory backing from locals.

 

The rise in Islamic extremism has been held in check by Somalis' general dislike and distrust of radical Muslim clerics and their courts, and the restrictions imposed by fundamentalist militias, the group said.

  

The formation of the party comes as rival factions in the splintered Somalia transitional government prepare to hold their first parliamentary session in the regional town of Baidoa, about 250km west of Mogadishu, on 26 February.

 

The factions are headed by arch-foes Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the president, and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, the parliament speaker, who have disagreed on where to locate the seat of the government since relocating from Kenya in June last year.