The Somali government says al-Qaeda has appointed a young militant as its commander of the resistance forces in Mogadishu. Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle told a news conference the insurgency is being directed by Aden Hashi Ayro, an Afghanistan-trained fighter in his 30s. “The government is being targeted by those who used to work with terrorists, the so-called Islamic Courts,” Jelle said. “And after they had a long consultation with al-Qaeda, they named Aden Hashi Ayro as head of (al Qaeda) operations in Mogadishu.”
But, as the Reuters account states, “some critics say the government paints its political rivals as terrorists to secure more backing from Washington.” (Reuters, March 21)
Heavy fighting continues for a third day in Mogadishu March 23, with reports of a Ugandan military cargo plane shot down by an insurgent missile.
Clashes continue despite an announcement by elders from an influential clan that they had agreed a ceasefire with Ethiopian troops. The truce was set to take effect at noon, said Uwas Abdi Dahir of the Hawiye clan, who was involved in the negotiations.
As fighting escaltes, the government is clamping down on the ability of reporters to operate freely in the embattled capital. The Somalian government has ordered AlJazeera and two local private radio stations to stop broadcasting from Mogadishu, saying that had “violated the ethics of the media by misinforming about the reality in Somalia”. The spokesman, Hussein Mohamed Muhamoud said did not give specific incidents in which the organisations violated media ethics.
AlJazeera Network issued a statement saying: “Al Jazeera, while expressing its disappointment, re-asserts its commitment to the principles of the free press.” The network said it defendeds “the right of viewers to know what happens across the world with impartiality and integrity.” AlJazeera, March 23)