Somalia leader appeals for help
Addis Ababa - Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed pleaded for help Monday at a regional summit, as an al-Qaeda-inspired insurgency closed in on his Mogadishu palace.
"Somalia is in the hands of al-Qaeda and extremist groups. The whole issue needs urgent treatment," he told leaders from the six-nation Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) in Addis Ababa.
"I would like to tell you that Somalia is going through its most dangerous phase in recent times and we are asking for intensified efforts in order to set up an effective military strategy," he added.
Igad leaders met in the Ethiopian capital for emergency talks in the wake of intensified clashes in Mogadishu pitting Islamist insurgents against Somali government troops backed by African Union forces.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whose troops pulled out of Somalia in early 2009 after an ill-fated two-year intervention, called for more regional co-operation to resolve the crisis.
"The recent security situation does not augur well. This, coupled with the approaching end of the transitional period, calls for more serious work within the existing time frame," he said in reference to the Somali transitional government's mandate which expires next year.
"In this regard, the Somalis, Igad, the AU and other stakeholders have to play their respective roles in a proactive manner and help reverse the trend that isn't encouraging," Meles added.
Sharif urged the international community to honour pledges to provide financial and military support, training of government forces and provide more help for the country's refugees.
The hardline Islamist Shebaab control most of the country and have been locked in a military see-saw with the Western-backed government for months in the capital Mogadishu.
Around 40 people, mostly civilians were killed in heavy clashes in the capital last week between the Islamist rebels and the AU-backed government forces.