Web site: Top leader of Somali Islamic forces urges fighters to turn guns on AU peacekeepers
The Associated Press
Published: November 13, 2007
NAIROBI, Kenya: Islamic insurgents in Somalia should turn their weapons on African Union peacekeepers in the war-battered Horn of Africa nation, according to a recording attributed to a top leader of the insurgents and posted on a Web site Tuesday.
A speaker identified as Aden Hashi Ayro, who’s believed to have received al-Qaida training in Afghanistan and is on the U.S. State Department’s list of suspected terrorists, said hundreds of Ugandan troops sent to Somalia to help foster peace should be treated the same as Ethiopian troops sent in to bolster the Somali government. Late last year, the Ethiopians helped the government oust Ayro’s Islamic movement, which had controlled the Somali capital.
The speaker spoke in Ayro’s distinctive voice. Comments attributed to him are rare.
“Uganda has invaded us. So the Ugandan army are like the Ethiopians. We will kill Ugandan army, we will kill their officials, we will destroy their cars and we will kill their politicians by the permission of God,” the speaker identified as Ayro says in an audio recording posted on a popular militant Web site. “I urge the Mujahideen to make the Ugandan army their first aim.”
Ugandan military officials in Somalia couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Ayro is a top military commander of the Islamic forces, who have vowed to wage an Iraq-style insurgency after Ethiopian and government troops ousted the Islamic group.
No top insurgent leader is known to have directed fighters to attack the 1,800-strong Ugandan force, which began arriving in March.
The Ugandan troops are mandated to protect key installations, such the seaport, airport and the presidential palace but several times have carried out security patrols in the capital. Five Ugandans have been killed and several wounded in clashes with insurgents, but the Ethiopians have been the insurgents’ main targets.
The African Union has said it aims for a 8,000-troop force for Somalia, but no other country has yet joined the force, due to a lack of funding and logistical difficulties.
Thousands of Somalis have been killed in the crossfire of fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamic insurgents this year.
Fighting flared again in recent weeks as government and allied troops launched an operation targeting the insurgents. Gunfire and explosions are now a daily fixture in Mogadishu, where many markets and businesses are closed.
Aid groups have also borne harassment from all sides, hindering efforts to help an estimated 850,000 Somalis forced from their homes by fighting, including 450,000 who have fled Mogadishu this year alone.
The arid Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government since a group of warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, then turned their heavily armed supporters on each other. The country is flooded with weapons and divided between warring clans.