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Home >> World
UPDATED: 09:52, September 11, 2005
Somali gov't denies military buildup as attack preparation
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The Somali government has urged the United Nations aid workers to return to the provisional capital, saying that military buildup in Jowhar that prompted their departure was only aimed at bolstering security.

Hundreds of militiamen loyal to Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf arrived in his temporary base of Jowhar this week, prompting thirteen UN international staff members to leave Jowhar on Thursday in the face of the military buildup and threats.

Six UN staff members were flown to Wajid in south-western Somalia and seven were relocated temporarily in Nairobi.

The military buildup has also raised fears of a stand-off among the Somalis, as warlords in the capital Mogadishu, accused the president of plotting a military assault on them.

But Somali Information Minister Mohammed Hayir played down the incident.

"I assure you there will be no attack. This move is aimed purely at security. We are sorry the international staff have left and we urge them to return," said Hayir by telephone.

The information minister said the troops came from various parts of Somalia and were part of a reorganization of armed forces to secure the government's base.

"The 2,000 troops in Jowhar are undergoing training as part of efforts to form a national army," he said.

He also denied the presence of reported Ethiopian troops in the town.

Yusuf had said in July that he would recruit militia forces from his northern stronghold of Puntland and other parts of the Horn of Africa nation to join a new army.

President Yusuf's fledgling government has insisted on operating in Jowhar, after relocating from the Kenyan capital Nairobi in June this year. Yusuf says Mogadishu is still too unsafe for the installation of a central authority.

However, a powerful faction led by Parliamentary Speaker Sheriff Hassan Sheikh Adan and warlords in Mogadishu are resisting the president's attempts to move the government's location, saying Mogadishu is the only recognized capital.


Sources in Mogadishu say the capital has been tense since news of the militia movements in Jowhar emerged on Wednesday.

Rumors had already been spreading because Jowhar's phone lines were temporarily cut off.

The warlords and lawmakers reportedly warned aid workers and foreigners to leave Jowhar, 90 km north of the capital, in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The troops in Jowhar include soldiers from Ethiopia -- a long-time ally of the president, the statement said.

Government members, lawmakers and their allied armed groups in Mogadishu have been holding separate talks over the latest developments in Jowhar.

"President Yusuf wants to wage a war against people in Mogadishu any time from now," Qanyare said.

However, Secretary to the cabinet Abdurrahman Meygag denied the reports.

"We have no malicious intent. We are abiding by our promises to the international community to resolve our differences peacefully," Meygag said.

United Nations envoy for Somalia Francois Lonseny Fall has appealed for restraint from all parties in the lawless African nation and the opening of dialogue between them as tension built in Jowhar, as a result of military movements in and around the town.

"I am concerned at the escalation of tensions in Jowhar and Mogadishu, and appeal for restraint from all parties," Fall said in a statement.

The United Nations has maintained that despite the relocation of some of its international staff from Somalia's temporary seat of the government, it would continue to work in the Horn of Africa nation.

"The relocation was due to security concerns but it is only a temporary measure aimed at ensuring safety of the UN staff in Somalia," Sandra Macharia, a spokesperson for the UN Development Program for Somalia said on Saturday.

Somalia has had no operational government for the past 14 years,following the collapse in 1991 of the government of the late president Mohamed Siad Barre.

Civil war erupted soon after Barre was toppled, as various factions leaders fought for power.

Source: Xinhua

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