This article spends considerable time on the status of Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed — chairman of the Executive Council of Islamic Courts — as a “moderate,” and thus, supposedly someone the Somali government can work with.
But aside from the vague and useless notion of what defines the sort of “moderate” that we’re expected to be excited about, Ahmed’s surrender is a significant blow to the Islamic Courts movement, and its lingering aspirations to return to power. By Chris Tomlinson for Associated Press:
NAIROBI, Kenya – A top leader of Somalia’s ousted Islamic movement seen by the U.S. as a potential key to preventing a widespread insurgency there surrendered to authorities and is under protection in Nairobi, officials said Monday.
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, who has been described by a U.S. diplomat as a moderate who could play a role in reconciling Somali factions, crossed into Kenya, went to a police station along the border on Sunday and was flown to Nairobi, according to a police
report seen by The Associated Press.
The U.S. said it was not involved in protecting Ahmed, who apparently feared for his life in Somalia, where the remnants of his Council of Islamic Courts are being hunted by Ethiopian troops and Somali government forces.
“The U.S. government is not holding or interrogating Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and was not involved in his capture or surrender,” a U.S. Embassy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to talk to the media.
U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger has repeatedly said Ahmed is a moderate Islamic leader who should be part of a national reconciliation process in Somalia.
Ahmed was the chairman of the Executive Council of Islamic Courts and shared the leadership with the Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, who was chairman of the court’s legislative council. While Ahmed is considered a moderate, Aweys is on a U.S. list of people with suspected ties to the al-Qaida terror network, though he has repeatedly denied having links to international terrorists.
If Ahmed agrees to hold talks with Somalia’s government, it could be a major step toward preventing the widespread insurgency that many Islamic leaders have promised in Somalia.
This assertion is offered without source or additional explanation. With Sheik Aweys still on the loose, there is still ample incentive to fight, and there would be even with him in custody for the jihadists who will not compromise with the Somali government, or lay down their arms for anything short of an Islamic state.
On Sunday, Somalia’s government spokesman, Abdirahman Dinari, said Kenya has handed over 34 Islamic militiamen, and that some may be senior leaders of the Islamic movement.