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Somali Government Denies Hard-Line Insurgent Claims

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C
25 May 2009

Somalia's new government has sharply denied the administration is unraveling with increasing attacks by hard-line Islamic insurgents in the capital, Mogadishu. President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government also denied reports that it is losing control to the insurgents including al-Shabab.

The new administration has also vowed to take absolute control of the city after the presidential palace and Africa Union peacekeepers came under insurgent attacks. Al-Shabab, with strong ties to al-Qaeda, has refused to recognize the new administration, promising to overthrow the government through violence.

Government spokesman Abdi Kadir Walayo told VOA that the new administration would defend the country with its last breath.

"The government is nearly three months old and is performing well. And as an insider, I have not seen the government is struggling. The government is firm and is standing as a rock," Walayo said.

He said despite increasing insurgent attacks, the new administration would succeed where previous governments have faltered.

"Although the insurgents are fighting the government is ready to defend itself. The government is trying to minimize the casualties of the civilians," he said.

Walayo said there are indications that non-Somalis have been engaging in insurgent activities aimed to destabilize President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government.

"You know the presence of foreign fighters in Mogadishu is something no secret. Some officials from the insurgents openly stated that there are foreigners fighting along their side, and they are people who came from (other) parts of the world," Walayo said.

Meanwhile, the government also said that hundreds of foreign fighters affiliated with the al-Qaeda organization are taking part in the battles that the government forces are fighting against Islamist rebels who seek to overthrow the government and do not recognize its legitimacy.

This comes after a recent instruction by the leader of al-Qaeda. Osama bin Ladin told supporters in Somalia to overthrow President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government and assassinate him.

Walayo said despite bin Laden's calls to overthrow the new Somali administration, the government would defend the country and restore peace and stability.

"This country belongs to Somalis, and the Somali government is ready to fight until the last drop of blood to defend its country," Walayo said.

He dismissed the terrorist call as unfounded and an affront to the ordinary, well-meaning Somali.

"Bin Laden is not (a) Somali and he has nothing to do with Somalia. And the valiant Somali people are ready to defend their country," he said.

Walayo said President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government is open to negotiations with those who are opposed to the administration.

"The government's policies are based on the process started from Djibouti… and was based on reconciliation and accommodation of those who were not part of that process," Walayo said.

He said although it wants to negotiate with all Somalis to find a solution to the country's woes, the administration would not coerce anybody in the process.

"The government's doors are open, (but) there is an English saying, you can bring the horse to the water, but you cannot force it to drink…," he said.

Meanwhile, a suicide car bomber struck a camp for the Somali security forces in the south of the capital Mogadishu, killing at least eight people including six police officers, and wounded several others.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack which comes as insurgent fighters and Somali government forces have been engaged in two weeks of intense clashes which left almost 150 people dead and nearly 500 others wounded, most of them civilians caught in the crossfire. Nearly 50,000 others were displaced from their homes in Mogadishu as a result of the renewed fighting.

Somalia has been without an effective government for the last 18 years after former President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in a coup d'état in 1991.

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