Somalia opposition leader arrives in capital..

Halkaan ka akhri

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A hard-line Somali opposition leader accused of having al-Qaida links arrived Thursday in Mogadishu for the first time in two years, officials said.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys had been based in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, after Ethiopian troops drove him and his supporters from strongholds in southern Somalia and Mogadishu.

Aweys had supported an Iraq-style Islamic insurgency to back a group of Islamists grappling for power in Somalia, which has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The clan-based leaders then turned on each other, plunging the nation of 7 million into anarchy and chaos.

The Islamist movement took over the capital and much of the south in 2006 before being chased from power by Ethiopian troops supporting the virtually powerless central government. The Islamists immediately launched an Iraq-style insurgency, elements of which are still battling the government.

The insurgency has lost most of its steam with the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in January and the election of a moderate Islamic leader as president the same month under an intricate U.N.-mediated peace deal. Influential Islamic clerics have also declared their support for the new leader, further diffusing the insurgency.

But Aweys’ faction of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia is a member of the Islamic Party, which is opposed to the government of President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

A U.N. Security Council resolution has designated Aweys a terrorist, but he has repeatedly denied having ties to international terrorists.

Aweys will now operate from Mogadishu but the group will maintain an office in Asmara, said Ismail Haji Adow, the spokesman for Aweys’ group.

“He came back for many things, among them reconciliation among the insurgency groups and to help efforts to restore law and order in Somalia,” Adow told The Associated Press.

Aweys will not have any engagements Thursday and will talk to the media Friday, Adow said.

Aweys formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia with other Islamic leaders and dissident lawmakers in 2007 in Eritrea, Ethiopia’s arch rival. Eritrea and Ethiopia have an unresolved border dispute, over which they have fought a war.

Ahmed left Asmara, backed by several influential members of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, to negotiate the deal that saw an expanded parliament elect him president in neighboring Djibouti in January.

Aweys has in the past said that he would not negotiate with the government until Ethiopian troops had left the country. But in January, after the Ethiopians withdrew, he maintained that Ahmed’s government is allied to Ethiopia. However, he has not called on any group to fight Ahmed’s government.

The government Ahmed heads only directly controls a few blocks of Mogadishu and the border town of El Berde. But Ahmed has allies among the militias that control much of central and pockets of southern Somalia.

Sourse AP

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