Al-Shabab is seeking to remove the transitional government and impose Islam's legal system, or Sharia [Reuters]

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Somalia's newly appointed prime minister, has unveiled an 18-minister cabinet line-up drastically downsized from the previous 39-strong government.

The leaner cabinet was unveiled on Friday nearly a month after Mohamed was appointed to head the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is fighting al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-inspired group seeking to take power.

"The Somali people and the international community were waiting for a competent and credible Somali cabinet, and I am happy to appoint this lean but capable cabinet," he said in a statement.

Sharif Sheikh Hassan, Somalia's president, welcomed the new cabinet, sayig in the same statement: "Somalia is in good hands."

"We do not have time to waste and our people deserve nothing  less than this," he added, urging parliament to approve the new line-up.

Doubts on cabinet

Despite the optimism, some legislators said the new ministers may not be approved by parliament.

"I doubt we shall approve them - because they were not selected on the basis of the constitution," Ismail Ahmed told the Reuters news agency.

Only two members of the Western-backed government, which has been beset by a dispute between Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, the former prime minister, and Presedent Sharif Sheikh Hassan managed to keep their jobs.

The new line-up also sees the entry of Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa, a powerful Sufi organisation that took up arms two years ago to fight al-Shabab.

The Sufi group was given the interior and labour portfolios.

Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa is seen as a key force if the TFG is to rein in the Islamist insurgency but had routinely complained that the outgoing government was refusing to give it its share of power.

Hussein Halane heads a consolidated finance and treasury ministry while the foreign ministry and one of the deputy prime ministerial positions was handed to Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, who already held the post under Sharmarke's predecessor.

Somalia has been in turmoil since 1991 when Siad Barre was removed from power and is relying on an under-resourced African Union (AU) peacekeeping force to provide security in parts of Mogadishu, the capital, and the presidential palace.

Source: Agencies