Somali Islamic leader issues war declaration on Ethiopia

"All Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia," says Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys.

Sheik Aways 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Sheik Aways 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Somalia is now in "a state of war," the country's Islamic leader said Thursday, despite an earlier pledge to return to peace talks with the government. As shelling continued near the government's garrison town of Baidoa, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys called for all Somalis to join the fight against neighboring Ethiopia. "All Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia," he told The Associated Press. "If you cannot fight you can contribute in other ways to the effort," Aweys said by telephone. Three days of clashes between Islamic fighters and government forces who are backed by Ethiopian troops have left more than 100 people dead. Ethiopia denies its forces are involved in the clashes, but says it has deployed several hundred military trainers in support of the transitional government. On Wednesday, Aweys told an EU envoy that he was willing to return to peace talks with the Somali transitional government. But on Thursday, he said, "the country is in a state of war." In Ethiopia, the government said in a statement released late Wednesday that the Islamic group was warmongering and not interested in peace. "Ethiopia has exerted efforts as it will do so for the peaceful resolution of the problem in Somalia," the statement said. In Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, which is controlled by the Islamic group, Muslim leaders said they had killed 70 government soldiers, the majority of them Ethiopians. One was an Ethiopian colonel, senior Islamic leader Sheik Mohamud Ibrahim Suley said. The Islamic group said they suffered seven deaths with 22 injured. "The war is between Somalia and Ethiopia - so the transitional government has to choose between Somalis and Ethiopia," Suley told reporters. Somalia's deputy defense minister Salad Ali Jelle told reporters that 71 Islamic fighters had been killed and 221 injured so far during clashes in three locations near military training camps around the government garrison town of Baidoa.