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Somali leader vows to "cleanse country of Al-Qaeda"

(Xinhua)

13:35, February 16, 2012

MOGADISHU, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Somali president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Wednesday vowed to rid the war-torn country of Al- Qaeda, days after the local militant group said it merged with the global Jihadist network.

Thousands of people held rally in the Somali capital Mogadishu to denounce the union between Al-Shabaab group and Al-Qaeda network announced last week in a joint video address by leaders of both militant groups.

People at the rally carried posters and placards with slogans condemning the groups and pledging to defend the country from the rebel fighters.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed speaking to thousands of Mogadishu's residents said his government will not allow the radical group from remaining in the country.

"First and far most we rely on Allah then on our people, and soldiers we will count on our brothers and friends who like our well-being to fight them (Al-Qaeda) and cleanse Al-Qaeda from our country Somalia," the Somali president told flag waving crowds.

The resident chanted anti-Al-Qaeda slogans at the rally where top government officials attended and spoke about their determination to fight the radical group of Al-Shabaab.

Somali leader said the government recognizes Al-Shabaab as the Al-Qaeda and will step up its campaign against the group which controls much of south and center of Somalia.

"From today onwards there is not such thing as Al-Shabaab but just Al-Qaeda. That has been a strategy used by Al-Qaeda. As you know Al-Qaeda surveyed this country during the 1990s but they saw that this country will never accept Al-Qaeda," Somali leader said.

Somali President reiterated his government's request for the lifting of UN arms embargo imposed on Somalia during the early 1990's to curb the follow of arms into the war-ravaged country.

The call came after the announcement by Al-Qaeda last week that the local Al-Shabaab movement was joining forces with the terror network.

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