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Somali Government Calls for End to Arms Embargo

February 13, 2012

VOA News

Somalia's government has called for an end to the international arms embargo on the country so it can better fight the militant group al-Shabab.

In a statement Monday, the government said al-Shabab's union with al-Qaida, announced last week, will increase insecurity in Somalia and East Africa, and that Somalia risks becoming a base for the terrorist network.

The government said it wants an end to the U.N. embargo, which was imposed in 1992 soon after Somalia's last stable government fell and the country descended into chronic violence.

Officials also asked for reinforcements to the national army and for direct assistance to the government.

In an interview with VOA's Somali Service, an al-Shabab official defended the merger with al-Qaida. Sheikh Mohamed Osman Arous called the union an "Islamic obligation."

"Muslims share Islamic religion, any Muslim from anywhere in the world can unite with a Muslim brother on the other side, and we have to become one," Arous said.

Arous said al-Qaida and al-Shabab plan to work toward the application of sharia, Islamic law across Somalia.

Al-Shabab is known for imposing a strict form of sharia in the parts of Somalia under its control. The group has executed people or chopped off their hands for alleged crimes.

A crowd of at least several-hundred people attended an al-Shabab-organized rally Monday west of the capital, Mogadishu.

The group was recently pushed out of the capital by government and African Union troops, but continues to carry out attacks in the city, including a deadly suicide car bombing last week.

Al-Shabab still controls large sections of southern and central Somalia, though it is facing pressure from Ethiopian troops in the center and Kenyan troops in the south.

Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri welcomed the group into al-Qaida last week through a video message posted to jihadist websites.

Al-Shabab had previously pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, and the group has long been suspected of deploying al-Qaida-trained fighters from abroad.

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