Somali premier offers amnesty

The government says all Somalis must hand over their weapons within three days.

    With the help of Ethiopian forces, the Somali interim government has control of Mogadishu [AFP]

    Gedi appealed to other world powers and aid agencies for "assistance to those people in the regions affected by the war and the flooding before that".
    He also appealed for African Union forces to be stationed in the country.
    "We are consulting with the African Union and the member states. They are still needed for their support in the pacification and stabilisation of the country. We would like the military observers and peacekeapers to come in to help us as soon as possible," he said.
    Final stronghold falls
    Earlier on Monday UIC fighters fled from their final stronghold around the southern Somali port town of Kismayo in the face of an advancing force of Ethiopian and interim government soldiers.

    A Kismayo resident said: "The Islamic courts left Kismayo last night. They left [their front line at] Jilib as well.


    "Nobody knows where they went. There's a lot of confusion."


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    Gedi confirmed that the last stronghold of Islamic Courts' fighters was now under government control.  The Associated Press news agency also reported him as giving all Somalis three days to hand in any weapons.


    The besieged Islamic Courts had rallied several thousand fighters at Jilib, just north of Kismayo on the shores of the Indian Ocean, after a retreat south 300km from the capital, Mogadishu.


    Ethiopian troops fighting to support the interim government had rained down mortars and rockets on the Islamic Courts men dug in near Kismayo on Sunday to start a battle against them.


    Fearing a blood bath, residents ran for their lives, carrying blankets, food and water on their heads.




    Jilib lies about 45km north of Kismayu, where Islamic Courts leaders Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed are based.


    The joint Ethiopian-Somali government force marched into Kismayo on Monday, but troops were slowed by having to clear mines left by Islamic Courts fighters on the road in.


    Some residents took advantage of the temporary power vacuum to loot the Islamic Courts' arsenal in Kismayo.


    A witness saw dozens grabbing machine guns and heavy weapons to carry away.


    "I came to see if I can get anything to sell," resident Mohamed Amin said.


    Reversed roles


    The intervention of Ethiopia has reversed the fortunes of the provisional government and the UIC, which just two weeks ago controlled the capital and appeared on the verge of routing a weak interim government stranded in a provincial town.


    Now the interim government has control of Mogadishu and the Islamic Courts - without tanks or planes - are fighting with their backs to the sea and Somalia's southern border with Kenya.



    has at least
    4,000 troops in Somalia [AP]

    Osman Mohamed, an aid worker, said: "Two-thirds of the population in Jilib have fled the town ... nearly 4,700 have fled."


    The Islamic Courts have built trenches with bulldozers and have more than 60 "technicals" - pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons - supporting about 3,000 fighters, witnesses say.


    Kenya has reinforced its northern border and US forces are also said to be in the region, including the sea, to prevent foreign fighters aligned with the Islamic Courts from escaping.


    Ethiopia says it has 4,000 troops in Somalia, though many believe that number could be far higher.


    Somalia's interim government has not given troop numbers, but is thought by experts to have several thousand.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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