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Protesters condemn 'anti-terror' coalition

Published Mar 4, 2006

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By Guled Mohamed

Mogadishu - Hundreds of Somali demonstrators converged in Mogadishu on Friday to protest against Somali warlords who have formed a coalition to support the US-led "war on terror".

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Religious leaders joined by masked men carrying AK 47s and anti-aircraft guns addressed crowds of people, who shouted "Down with the devil's party! Down with America!".

The Muslim protesters accused a newly formed Somali political group, which has dubbed itself the Mogadishu Anti-Terrorism Coalition and comprises many of the city's major warlords, of joining an American war against Islam.

The United States has long regarded Somalia as a haven for terrorists seeking to use the lawless Horn of Africa country as a base from which to launch attacks on America and its allies.

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But a low-level conflict has for weeks been simmering between Islamist groups and warlords from the new coalition, some of whom are known to sell counter-terrorism information to Western governments including the United States.

Ahmed Mohamed Abdulle, head of the Defenders of Islam, an armed group that organised the demonstration, accused Washington of funding the coalition whose aim was to fight Islam in Somalia.

"We are against those who want to give our land to colonialists and foreign troops," he shouted, to loud cheers from an excited crowd.

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Somalia has been without a central government and divided between rival clan militias since the fall of former dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

A new parliament cobbled together in a peace deal grouping all the main factions met for the first time in the Somali town of Baidoa last week.

Clashes between warlords have prevented President Abdullahi Yusef from establishing an administration in Mogadishu.

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The United States sent troops into Somalia in 1992 but they retreated in 1994 after warlords killed 18 US soldiers in a clash that was depicted in the film Black Hawk Down.

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