[dehai-news] (Garowe Online) : Somalia rivals talk reconciliation on eve of Ethiopia pullout

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Jan 16 2009 - 11:00:12 EST

Somalia rivals talk reconciliation on eve of Ethiopia pullout

Friday, January 16th, 2009


MOGADISHU, Somalia Jan 16 (Garowe Online) - The last remaining soldiers from
the Ethiopian army withdrew from Somalia's capital Mogadishu overnight
Wednesday, leading to reconciliation efforts among Islamists, Radio Garowe

Hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers and armored trucks rolled south of the
capital, as cheerful residents watched the tanks and military equipment that
incited one of the bloodiest rebellions in Somali history.

"There is not a single Ethiopian soldier in Mogadishu today," said Abdi Haji
Gobdon, spokesman for the country's fractured Transitional Federal
Government (TFG).

Mogadishu residents toured bases vacated by the withdrawing Ethiopian army,
which has been deployed in Mogadishu since late 2006.

Fighters loyal to Islamist factions immediately seized control of the bases.

However, the Al Shabaab faction has downplayed the significance of capturing
empty bases but has vowed to attack African Union peacekeepers, who assumed
control of the Villa Somalia presidential compound following the Ethiopian

Reconciling Islamists

Rival Islamist leaders have reportedly spoken on the phone with each other
about reconciling differences after the Djibouti peace process divided the
Islamist movement in mid-2008.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Djibouti-based Alliance for the
Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) faction, has secretly met with delegates from
Eritrea-based ARS hardliners in Dubai, sources said.

Zakariye Mohamud Haji, a member of ARS-Eritrea, told reporters the meetings
focused on "establishing a united position" following the pullout of
Ethiopian armed forces.

Inside sources said Sheikh Sharif has spoken directly on the phone with
Sheikh Omar Iman, who chairs the rival ARS-Eritrea faction. The two men had
reportedly strengthened ties following the conversation, according to the

Sheikh Iman is a close ally of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who has rejected
the Djibouti Agreement signed between the Somali government and Sheikh
Sharif, on behalf of ARS-Djibouti.

Mogadishu bases vacated by the Ethiopian army have fallen into the hands of
Islamist factions, but there were no reports of violence.


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