A wider war on the Horn of Africa appears to be imminent. It seems apparent to Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf that “peace talks” would, at this point, amount to negotiations with al Qaeda and its foreign fighters rather than fellow Somalis. Also, while those talks would provide a public-relations outlet for the jihadists to feign an interest in peace and mutual respect, the substance of the meetings would ultimately involve their dictating terms of surrender to the Baidoa government.
“Somali leader: Door to peace talks shut,” by Anthony Mitchell for Associated Press:
“They are the ones who effectively closed the door to peace talks and they are the ones who are waging the war,” Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf told The Associated Press from his office in Baidoa.
Tension has been mounting in recent weeks between Somalia’s government, which has Western and U.N. recognition but little authority on the ground, and the Council of Islamic Courts, which controls most of southern Somalia. The Islamists have vowed to launch a holy war starting Tuesday unless Ethiopian troops supporting the government leave Somalia.
“The fighting can happen at any time now,” Yusuf said, adding that his administration will not be the first to attack.
The Islamic courts have been steadily gaining power since June, raising concerns about an emerging Taliban-style regime. The United States accuses the group of having ties to al-Qaida, which it denies.
“Al-Qaida is opening up shop in Somalia,” Yusuf warned. “This is a new chapter and part of the terror group’s plan to wage war against the West.”
Earlier Friday, Islamic leaders in the capital, Mogadishu, distributed sermons about holy war to be read at the city’s mosques during prayers “” the latest attempt to galvanize the nation as it slides toward war.
“The sermon concerns the holy war on Ethiopian troops inside Somalia,” Islamic official Sheik Hussein Abdullahi Barre told the AP. He added, “What we want is that Friday’s sermon should be concerned about jihad.”