Somalia fingers Eritrea

2009-05-27 21:30

Mogadishu - Somalia's beleaguered President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Wednesday accused Eritrea of arming Islamic insurgents trying to topple his transitional government.

He told foreign correspondents in Mogadishu: "We know for sure that the majority of the weapons in the hands of the insurgents are coming from Eritrea.

"Eritrea is very much involved here," he said, adding "we know that Eritrean officers come here and bring money in cash".

He said Eritrea's intention in backing the radical Islamists was to create a base from which Ethiopian opposition forces would be trained to wage guerrilla warfare on Addis Ababa.

"Since there is a war and tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Eritrea needs a place where Ethiopian opposition groups could be trained.

"They want to destabilise Ethiopia from Somalia," he added.

Rout the fighters

Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been tense ever since a devastating border war in the late 1990s in which tens of thousands died.

The United States and the African Union have accused Eritrea of fuelling the violence in Somalia, a charge Eritrea has denied.
The African Union last week even called for the imposition of UN sanctions on Eritrea.

Somali extremists launched a fresh offensive against the four-month-old transitional federal government of Sharif on May 7 and have maintained their positions in Mogadishu in trenches along streets near the presidential palace.

Since then the fighting has intensified with the radical Islamist militants vowing to rout the fighters of the Western-backed moderate Islamist government.

Mortar shells aimed at Sharif's palace missed their target on Tuesday, but hit a nearby residential area, killing seven civilians.

The anti-government Islamists consist mainly of fighters from the Shebab, a homegrown radical group whose leaders are suspected of links to al-Qaeda, and the Hezb al-Islamiya, another armed organisation loyal to hardline opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.