Islamic extremist groups unite to overthrow Somali govt.

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December 27, 2010 19:23

Islamist leader Sheik Hasan Dahir Aweys, left, shakes hand with the spokesman of Al-Shabab Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage during a ceremony at Afgoye district of Mogadishu on Monday, Dec. 27, 2010. Photo - Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

Who: The Somali rebel group Hizbul Islam and extremist Al-Shabab.

What: Hasan Dahir Aweys, the leader of Hizbul Islam said he backed the decision to merge his group with Al-Shabab in a bid to topple the besieged transitional government. “I am very happy with the unification of Somalia’s Islamists,” Aweys told reporters urging Somali Islamists to double the Islamic Jihad. The head of government-run Radio Mogadishu dismissed the merger as a ploy. “The public got fed up with al-Shabab’s tactics, and now the government can present itself as the only option in the market of winning hearts and minds,” Abdirahim Isse Adow said in his statement.

Where: The two anti-government forces announced their unity at a function held at a mosque in Afgoi, 30 km south of the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu.

When: The merger of the extremist groups took place on Monday under the presence of journalists.

Why: Hizbul Islam insists the merger with Al-Shabab came under its own terms because continued fighting would only degrade both organisations, giving “more power to the enemy”. “We said to ourselves fighting Al-Shabab will only lead to the Islamists’ downfall, as those apostates (the government and its backers) will take advantage of our weakness,” commander Arus of Hizbul Islam said in an interview. Political analysts in Somalia are skeptical about the unity and deem it ‘tactical’ rather than ideological.

How: While Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabab have often fought together against the government in Mogadishu, they were rivals -until their merger last week – in other parts of Somalia. Al-Shabab imposes a harsh version of Islam that bans entertainment and segregates men and women. Punishments include the chopping off of hands of thieves and death by stoning of adulterers. Several hundred foreign fighters – some of them veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts – populate its ranks. Hizbul Islam, on the other hand, is widely seen as having a more nationalist agenda and has previously criticised Al-Shabab’s use of suicide bombers, summary executions and pledge of allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

in Afgoi, 30 km south of the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu
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