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Monday, August 14, 2006

Somali Islamists take pirate base

The Union of Islamic Courts, which controls Somalia's capital Mogadishu, has seized two coastal towns that were used as bases for piracy

An Islamist spokesman said they met little resistance when they took Eldher and Harardhere, north of Mogadishu.

They told residents that from now on piracy would be a crime.

Somalia's coast is one of the world's worst areas for piracy, but incidents have reportedly declined since the Islamic militia made territory gains.

"We have to secure the town and its surroundings," one Islamist commander told a crowd of residents in Harardhere, according to Reuters news agency.

"Piracy is a crime."

Islamist gains

In the past week, militia loyal to the UIC have gained ground north of Mogadishu, taking control of the strategic central town of Beletuein.

Somalia's interim government controls little more than the town of Baidoa, where it is based.

Tensions between the government and Islamists have prompted fears of escalated conflict, with Ethiopia and Eritrea reported to be giving support to the opposing sides in Somalia.

The Somali parliament is poised to receive the names of a newly-appointed cabinet.

It follows the sacking of the entire team last week after a series of high-profile resignations.

The ministers walked out over the sensitive issue of foreign peacekeepers and what they see as meddling in Somali affairs by its neighbour, Ethiopia.


Ethiopia warned that Somalia's interim government is in danger of being sidelined by the growth in power of the Islamic courts.

President Abdullahi Yusuf is a long-time ally of Ethiopia

The country's foreign ministry said much of the power within the courts has fallen into the hands of "terrorist" elements.

There are also reports of arms flooding into Somalia despite an embargo, and Ethiopian troops crossing over the border.

There are fears that Ethiopia could intervene.

Somalia has had no effective central government since the ousting of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

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