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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Somali Islamists Open Militia Training Camp

VOA: Witnesses in Somalia say the country's Islamist movement has begun training some 600 newly-recruited fighters. The training course began Tuesday at a camp in Hiilweyne, north of the capital, Mogadishu.

Somali news outlets say the recruits will receive instruction in combat and Islamic teachings. Most of the recruits are said to be militiamen who recently left various Somali factions and warlords to join the increasingly-powerful Islamists. The camp opened amid reports that more Ethiopian troops have entered Somali territory. Witnesses say an Ethiopian convoy arrived Monday in the central Somali town of Galkayo. Ethiopia denies its troops are in Somalia but has made clear it will support the country's weak transitional government against a possible Islamist takeover.

Witnesses reported seeing Ethiopian troops in the government base of Baidoa last month, after Islamist militias briefly moved close to the town. The government has been unable to stop the advance of the Islamist militias, who now control the capital and much of southern Somalia. The Islamists have moved to set up courts that enforce a strict form of Sharia (Islamic law) in the areas under their control. The United States has expressed concern that Somalia could become a haven and breeding ground for al-Qaida terrorists. Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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