Al-Qaeda suspect elected to lead Somalia

A Somali cleric who is on the US list of terror suspects was elected as head of the Islamist militia that controls the capital, Mogadishu, and much of the country’s south. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was elected in absentia June 24 as the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC), succeeding the more moderate Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Sheikh Aweys, regarded as the architect of the Islamic court system, led the al-Itihad al-Islami militia, currently listed by the State Department as a terrorist organisation with links to al-Qaeda.

Accepting his election from the Galgadud region of Somalia, Aweys warned the inhabitants of Mogadishu to be ready for Islamist rule via a radio broadcast. A former military colonel who once sentenced current president of the transition government Abdulahi Yusuf to death after seizing the northern port city of Bosasso in 1992, the hardline cleric is an avowed enemy of Yusuf’s weak administration.

“I am ready to lead the delegation that negotiates with the government, but we will not compromise our stand relating to Islamic system,” Aweys told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. (DPA, June 25)

The election calls into question the accord signed days earlier in Khartoum, in which the SCIC and the transition government agreed to recognize each other, in a bid to halt the warfare in southern Somalia. The accord was hailed by the Arab League, EU, AU and even US. But reporters on the scene in Mogadishu said it was met with skepicism by the populace, who noted that the transition government has no real power. (Africa News Dimension, June 25)

See our last posts on Somalia and al-Qaeda.