Somali courts leader says to target peacekeepers
DUBAI, April 14 (Reuters) - The fugitive leader of Somalia's ousted Islamists has threatened to target African peacekeepers in the country but said he would work with the government on reconciliation if foreign troops left, an Arab newspaper said.
Sheikh Hassan Dhahir Aweys told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that fighters of the deposed Islamic courts in Mogadishu "would not allow the African peacekeepers to remain on Somali land".
But Aweys, who vanished after his forces were routed by Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops over the New Year, expressed readiness to work with interim President Abdullahi Yusuf "if he agreed to get the Ethiopian and African forces he brought to Somalia to leave", the report on Saturday quoted him as saying.
"If there is a good reconciliation that is accepted by all Somalis, then I am one of them and I do not reject reconciliation," he said.
Somali and Ethiopian troops fought sporadic clashes with insurgents for a third day on Friday in Mogadishu, threatening a truce with the city's dominant Hawiye clan. The insurgents are drawn from the Hawiye and the Islamist movement, formerly known as the Somalia Council of Islamic Courts.
Ugandan troops are in Somalia as the vanguard of an African peacekeeping force to try to stabilise the country and allow Ethiopian troops who helped oust the Islamists, and who are disliked by many Somalis, to leave.
Aweys, who Asharq al-Awsat said spoke from a secret hiding place on the Somali-Kenyan border, said he saw no difference between Ethiopian forces and Ugandan peacekeepers, saying both were helping the interim Somali government.
Aweys, who is believed to be in his late 60s or early 70s, is among 189 people or entities the United States linked to "terrorism" after the Sept. 11 attacks, freezing their assets.
But Aweys blamed Washington for the violence in Somalia by encouraging Ethiopian forces to get involved in Somalia.
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