Eritrea an ally to Somali rebels, US army on stand-by

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United States has accused Eritrea of supplying arms to al-Qaeda linked foreign fighters and Islamic hardliners fighting government forces in Somalia. The government of Eritrea has however denied any involvement in arming or financing Islamist militants of al-Shabaab and Hisbul-Islam, trying to overthrow the government, howbeit, US soldiers are on stand-by, said Mr. Nonnie Carson, assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Reports have claimed that American troops are currently stationed in neighbouring Djibouti and are geared ready to be deployed into Somalia should the need arise. There have been reports that the Somali government might collapse under pressure from the al-Qaeda linked Islamist rebels, but Mr. Carson has ruled out deploying the troops yet. “There would be no case for US forces to engage on the ground,” Mr Carson said.

With over 100 civilians dead and 30,000 more forced to flee the capital city, Mogadishu, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has appealed to the Islamist insurgents to negotiate and yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously called for the rebels to end their offensive, renounce violence and join reconciliation efforts. But Islamist spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys claim that the presence of African Union troops in the city, guarding key sites, means they (Islamist rebels) will not negotiate.

There have also been reports of foreign fighters, with possible links to al-Qaeda, fighting alongside the hardline Islamists of al-Shabaab and Hisbul-Islam. They have been reported backing of the rebels by foreign governments particularly Arab governments. Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdalla, the UN’s envoy to Somalia was quoted ssaying that: “There is no doubt, from sources overt and covert, that in the attempted coup of last weekend there was significant involvement of foreigners, some from this continent (Eritrea) and others from outside this continent.”

According to reports, Al-Shabab which has al-Qaeda ties, has been joined in the latest clashes by members of Hizbul Islam, a coalition of hardline Islamist militias. Somalia has experienced almost constant conflict since the collapse of its central government in January 1991 and the current transitional government has international backing but exercises little control on the ground.

The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation, a local human right group, claim that the 8-day fighting between hardline Islamist rebels from the Al-Shabaab group and pro-government forces have claimed over 100 lives, wounded 330 people and displaced another 30,000.

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