An armed Somali group affiliated to the Islamic courts threatened to fight any peacekeeping troops sent to their country as African leaders struggled to put together an international force for Somalia.
 

AU peacekeeping

 

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The European Union released 15m euros ($19m) to finance peacekeeping operations, but leaders at an African Union summit on Tuesday were still seeking the 4,000 troops they need to bring the projected force up to strength.

 

A total of 8,000 troops are seen as necessary to fill a power vacuum when Ethiopian troops pull out after having backed the interim Somali government in a brief war that defeated the Union of Islamic Courts movement, which had ruled much of the country for the previous six months.

 

Alpha Oumar Konare, the African Union commission chief, told the summit: "If African troops are not in place quickly, then there will be chaos."

 

Delegates to the summit in Addis Ababa said Ghana, Algeria, Tanzania and Zambia were considering whether to provide troops, but final pledges might not be made at the talks. So far Uganda, Nigeria and Malawi have promised soldiers.

 

Troops threatened

 

As the African leaders deliberated, the official Islamic courts website posted a video message from the previously uheard of Popular Resistance Movement, stating that any African peacekeepers would be seen as invaders.

 

"Somalia is not a place where you can come to earn a salary - it is a place where you can die," said the group's message.

 

The Popular Resistance Movement says AU
peacekeepers will be fought as invaders
"The salary you are coming to look for here would be used to transport your coffin back home."

 

A Somali government security official dismissed the statement.

 

The source, asking not to be named, told Reuters: "I don't think such a group exists. They must be day-dreamers. The Islamists were totally crushed. They can never resurface again."

 

The authenticity of the Popular Resistance Movement could not be independently confirmed.

 

Ethiopia pullout

 

Since their defeat, the remaining fighters of the Islamic courts have scattered to south Somalia but vowed a long guerrilla war, and there has been a wave of low-level insurgency-style strikes on Ethiopian and government targets in recent weeks.

 

Analysts fear Somalia could quickly return to the chaos that has scarred it for 15 years if no force takes the place of the Ethiopians.

 

Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian president, said a third of his forces were withdrawing from Somalia and he wanted the remainder out within weeks.

 

In the central Somali town of Baidoa, Ali Mohamed Gedi, Somalia's prime minister, called for the implementation of the state of emergency law recently passed by parliament.

 

He said legislators were moving around Baidoa in heavily armed vehicles locally referred to as "technicals" contrary to a law which bans the possession of arms.