July 29, 2006

Somali PM links murder to “international terror”

By Guled Mohamed

BAIDOA, Somalia (Reuters) - Somalia's prime minister on
Saturday accused Libya, Egypt, Iran and Eritrea of fomenting
extremism in his country, and said the killers of a cabinet
minister had links with "international terrorists."

His comments came after hundreds of mourners attended the
funeral of Constitution and Federalism Minister Abdallah Deerow
Isaq, who was gunned down outside a mosque after Friday prayers
in the latest flare-up of violence in the Horn of Africa

"He was killed by criminals linked to international
terrorism," Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said in Baidoa,
seat of the interim government and site of the murder.

"It's unfortunate that some countries who we thought were
our friends have united to destroy the transitional federal
government. Such countries include Libya, Egypt, Iran and
Eritrea who together are fuelling terrorism in Somalia."

Gedi gave no more details of his accusations, or
specifically accuse any of those countries for the murder.

His government's standoff with a burgeoning Islamist
movement, which took control of Mogadishu and other southern
towns last month, is fast turning into a regional crisis.

While Ethiopia has sent troops into Somalia to protect the
government at its provincial base, according to witnesses,
Eritrea is widely believed to be arming the Islamists.

Experts believe the Islamists are harboring a small number
of foreign extremists, and their top leader, Sheikh Hassan
Dahir Aweys, is on U.S. and UN terrorism lists.

Protesters outraged at the minister's assassination burned
tires and looted shops on Friday, but calm returned on

"The man who did that was a professional assassin. There's
no way he would be an amateur," said resident Abdi Ali.


President Abdullahi Yusuf and other top government figures
led mourners at the early morning funeral, witnesses said.

In honor of the minister, a scheduled parliamentary debate
on a no confidence motion on prime minister Gedi was postponed.

"Today is a day to honor the memory of our beloved
minister, so there will be no meeting of parliament,"
Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayr told Reuters. He added,
however, that the vote could be held in the next few days.

Ministers and lawmakers in Somalia's interim authorities --
set up in 2004 in the 14th bid to end anarchy and restore
central rule since 1991 -- are split on the Gedi issue.

Those who want him out see it as a way to draw the rival
Islamists into a power-sharing pact by offering them his post.

The alternative, many fear, is war.

Regional diplomats are urging a return to peace talks in

"We can't drag them to the table, but I believe there is a
lot we (the international community) can do to convince them,"
African Union envoy to Somalia, Muhammad Ali Foum, told

Authorities say seven men have now been arrested for
Friday's killing of the minister, while others escaped.

Foreign sources in Baidoa, who asked not to be named, said
they believed those detained were young Muslim fundamentalists.

Mogadishu's Islamist rulers, whose power base comes out of
sharia courts and their militia set up since the mid-1990s to
restore order to the capital, deny involvement.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Jack Kimball and
Tia Goldenberg in Nairobi)