Islamic Courts offer Somali talks

Fugitive leader says he will negotiate with government if Ethiopian troops leave.

    Mogadishu has been the scene of increasing anti-Ethiopian and anti-government violence

    "The Somalis are now more united that before proving that they are one nation against the Ethiopian invaders," Aweys said.

    "Somalia is a 100 per cent Islamic nation and Somalis do love Islam and like to deal with Islamists."

    Aweys, who told al Jazeera that he was in hiding "somewhere in Somalia", accused Ethiopian troops and the forces of the Somali interim government of committing what he described as "genocide" against Somali civilians in Mogadishu.

    Violence continues
     
    Sporadic violence, meanwhile, has continued in Mogadishu the Somali capital, where most of the foreign peacekeeping forces are based.
     

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    On Saturday, unidentified armed men ambushed Somali troops on patrol, fatally shooting two soldiers in the back, witnesses said.
     

    Late on Friday, a mortar fired by Ethiopian-backed government troops landed on a camp for people whose homes have been destroyed in the fighting, witnesses said.

     

    Hundreds of makeshift homes built of sticks and canvas burned to the ground.

     

    The violence came soon after senior tribal leaders from the Hawai, Somalia's largest clan, declared war on Ethiopian troops and called on all Somalis to join them.

    Eritrean support

     

    On Friday, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the other main leader of the Islamic courts fighters, met with Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea's president, in Asmara, the Eritrean capital.

     

    It was the first time an African leader has met with the group since it was driven out of Mogadishu.

     

    Ahmed was seeking support from the Eritrean government, which has supported the Islamic courts in the past against Ethiopia.

     

    Aweys welcomed the move played by Eritrea on the Somali crisis, saying: "We welcome any effort by any party to support the Somali people in the face of the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia."
     
    Eritrea and Ethiopia have been bitter enemies ever since Eritrea gained independence from its larger neighbour in 1991 following thirty years of bloody fighting.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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