Islamists tell envoys Somalia doesn't need peacekeeping force

Posted in Broader Middle East | 07-Jul-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Officials from the supreme Islamic Courts, Mogadishu, Somalia, during their meeting with officials from AU and Arab League in Mogadishu, Thrusday, July 6, 2006.

Members of the radical Islamic group that controls the Somali capital met African, Arab and European officials Thursday and repeated their opposition to the deployment of peacekeepers to stabilize the lawless country. In a separate development, the ruling Supreme Islamic Courts Council warned that Muslims who fail to perform daily prayers will be killed.

Addressing a 24-member team from the African Union, European Union and Arab League, council leaders said they that "believe that alien forces are both unnecessary and counterproductive."

"The Somali problem is a political one, and cannot be resolved by military means," they said in a written statement distributed to their visitors.

The delegation was in Somalia to assess security conditions in the country ahead of possible deployment of peacekeepers. The force is intended to secure the weak, UN-backed transitional government that the Islamic group has challenged, help disarm at least 55,000 militia fighters in Somalia and train a new national army.

The Supreme Islamic Courts Council took Mogadishu in June and has expanded its control to much of southern Somalia, while the transitional government holds only one town, Baidoa, 250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu.

The African, Arab and European visitors met leaders of the Islamic group a day after holding talks with the interim government, which has appealed for a peacekeeping force.

The peacekeeping proposal has been endorsed by the African Union and an east African regional group that led peace talks that produced a transitional government nearly two years ago.

"Such forces may have been needed in the long past, while the warlords were brutalizing the Somali people. However, the need has dissipated since they were removed from the scene," the Muslim leaders told the African, Arab, and European officials on Thursday.

In the latest sign of its radical tendency, the Council issued an edict late Wednesday saying: "He who does not perform prayers will be considered as infidel and Sharia law orders that that person be killed." Sheikh Abdullah Ali, a founder and high-ranking official in the Council, said that it was the duty of every Somali to implement the provisions of Sharia law, which when fully accepted would allow "everybody to enjoy life based on peace and prosperity."

He was speaking at the opening of a new Islamic court in Mogadishu's southern Gubta neighborhood. It was not immediately clear who would enforce the regulation or how but the courts have well-armed militias.

Members of such militia shot and killed two people in central Somalia late on Tuesday while quelling a protest against a ban on watching the World Cup at a local cinema and have in the past been tasked with carrying out court rules. - AFP, AP