MOGADISHU, Sept 20 – A top radical Islamist leader in Somalia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, called Sunday for more suicide attacks against African Union peacekeepers in the country, after a deadly strike last week.
"I… call upon the people to carry out more attacks against the African forces; they came to Somalia to assist our enemy, kill them (…) in any way possible and use suicide attacks to kill them," he said.
The Hezb al-Islam official was speaking at a public prayer at Elashabiyaha, about 18 kilometres (10 miles) west of Mogadishu, marking the end of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival.
Twenty-one people, including 17 AMISOM peacekeepers, died in Mogadishu Thursday in a twin car bomb attack claimed by another Somali insurgent group.
"They (African peacekeepers) must leave our country otherwise there will not be peace," added the sheikh who is wanted by the United States for his suspected ties with Al-Qaeda.
"The enemy of Allah is targeting Muslims all over the world, it is not only Nabhan that they killed recently but they are targeting many others, such attacks will only increase hate and violence."
He was referring to Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a top regional Al-Qaeda leader and Kenyan citizen wanted by the FBI over the 2002 anti-Israeli attacks in Mombasa, who was killed last week when his vehicle was targeted by US helicopters in southern Somalia, according to US officials and Western security sources.
Thursday’s deadly attack on AU peacekeepers follows a pledge by the Shebab Islamist movement to avenge his killing.
The Shebab and Sheikh Aweys’s group have launched a vast offensive against the UN-backed transitional government of Somali President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Sharif and his former comrade in arms Sheikh Aweys were at the head of the of Islamic Courts ousted in late 2006 by the intervention of Ethiopian troops to bolster the Somali government forces.
Two years later, after the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, Sharif was named Somalia’s president last January, seen at the time as a leader who could bring together the different factions within the lawless country.
But the insurgents have turned on Sharif — an Islamic cleric — accusing him of selling out to the West and have targeted the African peacekeepers, demanding their departure from the country.