& the following political report is from
The Reporter (Addis Ababa)
9 September 2007
Posted to the web 10 September 2007
Clad in grey suit, the hard-line clerical leader of
the ousted Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) Sheikh Hassan
Dahir Aweys was, for the first time in months, seen in
the open in Asmara on Thursday
Aweys was in Eritrea to attend the conference
organized by the group opposed to the Transitional
Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia.
The anti-TFG camp in Asmara is headed by individuals
such as former speaker of the Somalia's transitional
parliament Sheikh Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, former
TFG Deputy Prime Minister, Hussein Aideed, and UIC
second man Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
Following the defeat of the Union of Islamic Courts in
December 2006, 72-year-old Aweys, who was a former
colonel in Siad Barre's army and founder of the
Al-Itihad militant group, disappeared.
The government of Ethiopia holds Aweys and the
Al-Itihad responsible for several attacks on its
territory and even assassination attempts on high
ranking government officials.
Since December, Aweys has been sporadically giving
statements to the media but his whereabouts had
remained a mystery.
In his latest interview with the VOA a week ago via a
satellite phone, Aweys vowed that his followers would
fight to the death until Ethiopian forces withdrew
from his country.
Pursued by advancing Somali and Ethiopian forces to
Ras Kamboni, UIC second man Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was
captured at the border with Kenya. He was later
released and allowed to head to Yemen.
The group in Asmara has been calling for the
withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia, a point
that was reiterated at the opening of the ten-day
"We are expecting to bring up to the end of the
conference a program that not only deals with the
Ethiopian invasion, but also a program that brings
solution to the everlasting civil war that has been
occurring in our country for the last 15 years" the
VOA quoted Mahad Sheikh, who is one of the organizers
of the meeting. "So we are expecting success and to
bring change to Somalia."
Other media sources also quoted some of the delegates
in Asmara making statements regarding military
operations against Ethiopian forces in Somalia.
AFP quoted conference spokesperson Zakariya Mahamud
Abdi as having said: "There will be discussions about
this issue [fighting Ethiopia]. People who are
specialists in the area of military operations will
handle this issue - it will not be for Tom, Dick, and
Last week Thursday, a month-and-half-long peace
conference that was organized by the TFG was concluded
President Abdullahi Yusuf gave his assurance to the
participants of conference that his government would
fulfill the pledges made -- such as bringing about
clan truce, disarmament and sharing of power and
distribution of wealth.
Somali Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Abdi Nur criticized
the meeting in Asmara as redundant and unhelpful.
"We believe anything organized outside the country
will come to nothing," he told a news conference in
Meanwhile, Asmara came under harsh criticism from
Washington for its active support for to the UIC and
other militant groups.
Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer last week
disclosed that the United States was considering
putting Eritrea on the terrorist list for allegedly
funneling weapons and aid to Somali insurgents
battling the interim government in Somalia.
"We have tried our best to act with restraint with
Eritrea," Frazer told reporters in Washington. "We
cannot tolerate... their support for terror activity,
particularly in Somalia."
Relations between Eritrea and the US have become
tenser as the former accuses Washington of pursuing
the wrong policy in the Horn.
Asmara blames the US for not having leaned on Ethiopia
to accept a border ruling by the Hague-based Eritrea -
Ethiopia Boundary commission (EEBC) .
In addition to the war of words, Washington complains
that Asmara is inspecting its diplomatic pouches and
refusing visas for US diplomats.
In a related news, allegations that Eritrea is
"providing direct support" to the separatist group
Tamil Tigers has stirred up investigations in Sri
According to the Asian Tribune: "A US Senate Foreign
Relations Committee report reveals that the Government
of Eritrea is providing direct military assistance to
Sri Lanka's separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. The Senate
report does not generalize that military assistance is
coming from 'Eritrea' but authoritatively says,
'Government of Eritrea' [is] providing 'direct
military aid' to the Sri Lankan rebels."
The same source says it obtained its information from
a document prepared by US Senator Richard Lugar and
The document, Asian Tribune goes on to say, was made
available for Congressional record on 15 December
2006, with copies to the White House, State and
"In Sri Lanka, there are no direct threats to American
interests, terrorist or otherwise. An escalating
conflict, however, between the government and the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is now on the
verge of outright civil war. Continual uncertainty and
eruptions of violence are indirectly affecting
Americans in the country, but Americans, as of this
date, are not direct targets. As Sri Lanka is an
island nation, anti-government insurgents primarily
receive smuggled military arms and hardware via boat,
from Indonesia, among other countries. The government
of Eritrea reportedly provides direct assistance to
the LTTE," according to Senator Lugar's findings.
Lugar reportedly sent "6 Senate Foreign Relations
Committee majority staff members to some 20 countries
in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East to
examine the relationship between the State Department
and the Defense Department in [US] embassies."
Immediately after the Asian Tribune report, the Sri
Lankan government said that its foreign ministry was
going to take up the matter and carry out further investigations.
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