Somali insurgents reject Ramadan ceasefire call.


Halkaan ka akhri

* Insurgents vow to step up attacks during holy month

* Shabaab commander says president wants to re-arm

* 11 people killed during clashes on first day of Ramadan

MOGADISHU, 23, Aug, 2009 – Somalia’s insurgents on Sunday rejected a government call for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and accused the president of trying to use religion as a cover for re-arming his troops.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel, had called for an end to fighting during Ramadan to allow people to pray.

“We will not accept that ceasefire call. This holy month will be a triumphant time for mujahideen and we will fight the enemy,” Hizbul Islam leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys told a news conference.

Somalia has been torn by conflict for the last 18 years, troubling the international community which says al Qaeda-linked militants exploit the chaos and pose a threat to the whole region.

A regional commander for al Shabaab insurgents questioned the government’s call for a ceasefire and vowed to escalate attacks.

“We will redouble the war against infidels. His (president) call does not mean he has respect for Ramadan, but it is designed to re-arm his pro-Western militia,” said Bare Adan Khoje, Shabaab commander for the South Western Gedo region.

At least 11 people were killed and 22 others wounded on the first day of Ramadan when the insurgents attacked government positions in the capital, the state defence minister said.

“They attacked our positions on Saturday evening and we gave them a lesson. Their bodies are lying on the streets,” Yusuf Mohamed told Reuters.

Ali Nuur, a Mogadishu school teacher said he had been trapped in a mosque by the fighting.

“Seven of the bodies were lying on the streets when I got out of the mosque,” he said.

More than 100 people died last week in different parts of the country as pro-government militias and insurgents engaged in various battles.

Source: Reuters

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