Al-Shabaab: UK trying to colonise Somalia
Nairobi - The Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab has accused Britain of trying to colonise Somalia, ahead of a major international conference in London on the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.
Leaders from Somalia and 40 other nations are expected to gather on February 23 for the British government-hosted conference, in the latest diplomatic attempt to find some external solution to over 20 years of civil war.
But al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Rage said the conference was another attempt to "colonise" Somalia.
"Britain must understand that the Muslims have long rejected British Imperialism and the futility of their renewed attempt is all too obvious," the militant group added on its Twitter feed late on Monday.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Somalia last week ahead of the conference.
In colonial times, Britain controlled what has now become the semi-autonomous northern region of Somaliland, while Italy controlled the rest of the country. Somalia gained independence from colonial rule in 1960.
Al-Shabaab, which last week said it had merged with al-Qaeda, has been fighting to oust the internationally backed government since early 2007.
In recent months, the group has been losing control of part of the territory as a result of pressure from pro-government forces, including African Union and Kenyan troops, leading to international hopes that a solution to the conflict may be within reach.
The African Union peacekeeping mission, known as Amisom, said on Tuesday that it had captured two insurgents sites outside of the capital.
"Operations are ongoing to expand the zone of security in Mogadishu," said Brigadier General Audace Nduwumunsi, the acting AMISOM commander.
The peacekeepers tentatively began moving out of the capital in January, five months after the insurgents withdrew most of their forces from Mogadishu.