Hardline Somali leader vows to fight foreigners

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — A hardline Somali rebel on a U.N. list of terror suspects called the country’s Western-backed government powerless Wednesday and vowed to fight any foreign troops who try to prop up the administration.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A hardline Somali rebel on a U.N. list of terror suspects called the country’s Western-backed government powerless Wednesday and vowed to fight any foreign troops who try to prop up the administration. Somalia’s government, which comes under near-daily attack by insurgents, has called on foreign countries to send reinforcements — but there were no signs any troops would be forthcoming. "We will fight any troops who are deployed in our country," said Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, whose Islamic Party has been fighting alongside al-Shabab, another extremist Islamist group. He added that the "so-called government … controls only small pockets (of the capital)." Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when the overthrow of a dictatorship plunged the country into chaos. A surge in violence in recent weeks, which diplomats said is a major push by the insurgents to force the government out of its Mogadishu strongholds, has killed about 225 people. Last week, the national security minister and Mogadishu’s police chief were among those killed. The country’s lawlessness has spread security fears round the region and raised concerns that al-Qaida is trying to gain a foothold in the Horn of Africa. Nearly 126,000 people have fled their homes since May 7, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The United Nations says an estimated 3.2 million Somalis — almost half the country’s population — need food and other humanitarian aid. Two years ago, Ethiopia deployed troops to support Somalia’s government, but they were widely unpopular and finally withdrawn in January. ______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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