RIVALS SURRENDER WEAPONS IN SOMALIA
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer Thu Jul 13, 9:16 AM ET
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Islamic
militiamen struggled to keep up with a flow of former rivals ready to surrender prized weapons Thursday, further cementing
the radical Muslims' position as the undisputed power in the Somali capital.
The Islamic group seized
large parts of southern Somalia from rival
warlords in June, and has since used force, its status as arbiter of Islamic law, and negotiations to consolidate power.
The arms handovers came
days after the militia attacked one of the last holdout warlords in Mogadishu,
killing at least 70 people in clashes that ended Tuesday, when the rivals surrendered. On Wednesday, some 300 Islamic militiamen
peacefully took Mogadishu's disused, rusting seaport from
another secular warlord who was resisting the group's strict religious rule.
The rise of the Islamic
militia has raised concerns about the establishment of Taliban-style, hard-line rule in the Horn of Africa country. The Islamic
militia has grown increasingly radical since seizing Mogadishu, replacing a moderate leader
with a radical cleric the U.S. has linked
Some 200 fighters loyal
to warlord Bashir Rageh, a member of the group defeated last month, on Wednesday surrendered their weapons — including
15 trucks mounted with heavy weapons — to the group known as the Islamic Courts Council.
"We have been working with
the warlords for a long time, so now it is time to give the chance" to the Islamic group, Yusuf Iyow, one of the militia commanders,
told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We are committed to forget the past hostilities and to work with them."
"The only power in Mogadishu is the Islamic Courts Union, so there is no other option open
for us but to surrender. Defiance only kills people and does
not create opportunities" for peace, Iyow said.
Some 200 militiamen loyal
to another secular warlord, Abduqadir Mohamed Bebe, unexpectedly surrendered light and heavy weapons Thursday.
The move disrupted plans
to collect weapons from combatants loyal to another once powerful warlord, Muse Sudi Yalahow, whose fighters are expected
to hand over arms on Friday. Their cooperation follows two weeks of negotiations mediated by elders from the Abgal clan, to
which both Yalahow and Rageh belong, said their commander, Ali Daladle.
Clan elders also were negotiating
a peaceful handover of Villa Somalia —
the presidential palace and a stronghold of Interior Minister Hussein Farah Aideed, who is also one of several deputy prime
"From now on, people should
feel secure now that Islamic courts have almost all the weapons in the capital," said Uqtar Abu Mansour, one of the leaders
of the Islamic group. "We shall do the same in other parts of the country where arms other than the Islamic courts' exist."
Somalia has not had an effective central government since opposition leaders ousted longtime dictator Mohamed
Siad Barre in 1991. They then turned on each other, carving this nation of an estimated 8 million people into rival fiefdoms.
A U.N.-backed interim government
was formed in late 2004, but it has no army and almost no influence outside the town of Baidoa,
155 miles northwest of the capital.
The Islamic fighters have
risen in recent months to fill the vacuum, promising peace and stability under Quranic law.
The Islamic group and the
interim government met under Arab League auspices last month and signed a nonaggression and mutual recognition agreement.
But relations have deteriorated since then as the Islamic group made it increasingly clear it saw itself as the main authority
Another Arab League-mediated
meeting was scheduled Saturday, but government officials have said they would not talk with the militia's radical leader.