Somalia abandons arms amnesty

Tyres are burned as protests against Ethiopian forces break out in the capital.

    Protesters threw stones and burned tyres during an anti-Ethiopian protest in Mogadishu [AFP]

    The courts were beaten within two weeks, with some fighters melting into the civilian populace and others trying to flee to Kenya.

    Disarmament
     
    The government had demanded that Somalis give up their arms by Thursday. They extended the deadline and have now abandoned it after few people came forward to willingly hand over their weapons.
     
    Dahail Abukar, a protester, said: "We don't want disarmament only in Mogadishu, we want all the people [of Somalia] and all the clans to be disarmed simultaneously."

    "We have not given a specific time, but in the near future the disarmament will be done all over the country."

    Ali Salad Jelle, 
    Somali deputy defence minister

    The protest was the third to hit the capital since the government and the Ethiopian forces moved into Mogadishu.

    Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mogadishu said: "They [the protesters] are looking at the disarmament issue from a clan basis and arguing that they will be unable to defend themselves if they hand in their weapons." 

    Ali Salad Jelle, the deputy defence minister, said the disarmament had been postponed indefinitely after members of the Hawiye clan, the majority clan in the capital, asked the prime minister to stop it.

    "We have not given a specific time, but in the near future the disarmament will be done all over the country ... We hope it will end within a short time without bloodshed," Jelle told the AFP news agency.
     

    The protests come just days after an ambush killed one Ethiopian soldier in south Somalia, and a hand grenade was thrown at Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu.

     

    The Somali capital is flooded with small arms. The ease with which Somalis can get weapons is a major problem, and only a few were seen to be disarming under Gedi's disarmament programme.

     

    Aid

     

    The US has pledged to provide $40mn to Somalia in political, humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance.

     

    The package will include a plan to ask more African nations to provide troops to help stabilise the country.

     

    Protesters in the capital shouted:
    "Down with Ethiopia" 

     
    The EU said it would help pay for a peacekeeping force envisioned at 8,000 soldiers.

     

    US warships have patrolled the Somali coast to prevent Islamic Courts fighters from escaping by sea.

     

    Ethiopia's government has said that it does not intend to stay in Somalia for long, saying its forces cannot be peacekeepers and it cannot afford for them to stay.

     

    More than 3,000 Islamic Courts fighters are allegedly still hiding in the capital.

     

    Al-Qaeda

     

    Kenya closed its border with Somalia amid fears that Islamic Courts fighters would slip across the frontier. The UN said thousands of refugees were also near the border, unable to seek safety in Kenya.

     

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    The UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (Ocha) said in a statement on Friday that fighters were reported to be on the roads to towns in southern Somalia looting and harassing civilians.

     

    Ocha said that Ethiopian soldiers have also detained a UN security staff member in one southern town and his whereabouts are unknown.

     

    A tape, believed to be from al-Qaeda's deputy leader, has urged defeated Courts fighters to launch an Iraq-style war against Ethiopian forces there.

     

    "You must ambush, mine, raid and [carry out] martyrdom campaigns so that you can wipe them out," he said.

     

    The message is likely to reinforce Washington's belief that the Council of Islamic Courts is linked to al-Qaeda, a charge that the Islamic Courts have denied.

     

    The audiotape could not be independently verified.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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