Hardline Islamist leader tells Kenya not to sent its troops to Somalia

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, radical Islamist leader of a Somali opposition faction, has warned Kenya against sending its troops to Somalia to join the African Union peacekeepers who are already here, local media reports said on Thursday.

Aweys told local Shabelle radio in Mogadishu that Kenya "would regret" if it went ahead with its promise this week that it would send a battalion of forces to join the peacekeepers of the African Union mission in Somalia, reported Xinhua.

At this week's meeting of the foreign ministers of the regional grouping, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyuom Mesfin stated that Kenya pledged to send a battalion of its soldiers to be part of the UN-authorized African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia.

"Ethiopia is desperately looking for a way out of Somalia so we warn Kenya not to send its forces to our country," Aweys said. "We will fight them like we fought the Ethiopians."

Aweys is the leader of the breakaway faction of the opposition coalition known as the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS). The other faction of the ARS, led by moderate Islamist leader, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, has signed a series of peace and power-sharing deals with the Somali transitional government.

More than 3,000 peacekeepers from Ugandan and Burundi are so far deployed in Somalia, part of the 8,000-strong peacekeeping mission initially authorized by the UN Security Council early in 2007.

Other African countries which have pledged to contribute troops have not so far sent their share of the peacekeepers to Somalia, citing security and logistical considerations.

Most of the Somali Islamist insurgent groups, who now control much of the south and center of the war-torn country, are opposed to the deployment of foreign forces on Somali soil and have rejected a ceasefire agreement with the government.

The Somali government, which now only controls Mogadishu and the southern town of Baidoa, the seat of the Somali parliament, has been beset by two-year insurgency and crippling recurring political infighting.

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