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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia Split with al Shabaab

Somalia's opposition alliance elects Islamist as chief14 Sep 14, 2007 - 6:39:31 AM

ASMARA, Eritrea Sep 14 (Garowe Online) - A gathering of Somali opposition figures in the Eritrean capital Asmara has elected the officials who would lead the executive and legislative branches of the organization, sources said.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected overnight Thursday as chairman of the executive committee of the Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia, a coalition of opposition forces intent on forcing Ethiopian troop withdrawal from Somalia.

Sheikh Sharif, Somali opposition leaderThe ALS includes Islamic Courts clerics, former Somali lawmakers who refer to themselves as the "Free Parliament," civil society and Diaspora activists.
(Picture from Garowe online)

The 10-day opposition conference that led to the declaration of ALS opened last week in Asmara, only days after the Somali government concluded a clan peace conference in the capital Mogadishu.

Formerly the executive head of the Islamic Courts, Sheikh Sharif has been viewed by many diplomats as a moderate voice within Somalia's Islamist organization.

He was detained by Kenyan security forces earlier this year following the Islamist militia's retreat from Mogadishu in the face of Ethiopian forces, but was later released.

The "central committee" of the ALS, powered with legislative authority, elected Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as its new head. Sharif Hassan was deposed as Somalia's parliament Speaker in January for his close ties to the Islamists.

It's not clear whether or not this opposition alliance wields any real authority inside Somalia, especially in Mogadishu where insurgents continue their daily guerrilla war against Somali and Ethiopian government forces.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the Islamists' most influential cleric, is present in Asmara despite repeated complaints from the U.S. government.

But his real influence in Mogadishu seems questionable, as a new brand of Islamist fighters ("al Shabaab") responsible for the Mogadishu insurgency issued a statement strongly condemning the Asmara conference and distancing themselves from Islamic Courts leaders in Eritrea.

The al Shabaab group, led by former Aweys protégé and Taliban-trained Adan Hashi Ayro, argued in a statement posted online that the "Asmara Conference is forcing the Jihad to loose its way."

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