Ethiopian base under mortar attack

US ambassador says Islamic courts leaders have "role to play" in Somalia's future.

    Without Ethiopian military backing, the government may not be strong enough [AFP]

    He said: "I don't see the Islamic courts being involved in a future government, but I do see the possibility that individuals within the Islamic courts, such as Sheikh Sharif, could play a role."
    Mortar attack
    The mortar strike on Friday was the latest assault on government and Ethiopian troops since they routed Islamic courts fighters and seized Mogadishu last month.
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    A government source was reported as saying: "An unknown gunman carried out four mortar attacks aimed at an Ethiopian base in Darmoley. I have no information of any wounded or dead."
    Meanwhile, according to Abdirahman Dinari, a government spokesman, police were interrogating a man over a mortar attack on Mogadishu international airport on Wednesday that injured five people.
    Dinari said: "The police have arrested a man suspected to have been behind the attack on the airport. They are questioning him."
    Dinari also said 23 people, including senior Islamic courts officials, have been handed over to the government by the Kenyan authorities who arrested them attempting to cross the border.
    Many suspect the attacks are carried out by remaining members of the Islamic courts, although some have suggested the attackers may be criminals or rival tribal leaders.
    Sliding backwards

    Sheikh Sharif is considered a moderate in the
    Islamic courts movement [AFP]

    Ethiopian troops began to withdraw from Mogadishu on January 23, but there are concerns that without Ethiopian military backing the government will not be strong enough to prevent Somalia sliding back into the sectional conflicts the country experienced since 1991, when Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia's former leader, was ousted.
    The government has asked for international peacekeeping troops to be sent to the country.
    The African Union has backed a force of almost 8,000 to replace the withdrawing Ethiopian soldiers.
    Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria have pledged troops, but South Africa and Rwanda have ruled out deploying their forces.
    Mozambique and others are considering contributing.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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