Militants in Disguise
After over two decades of fighting, moderate Islamists have joined the fray, and are rising up to take back Somalia.
[Mogadishu, Somalia] Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca is an old, well-known Sufi Islamist group. It is one of the new groups to have joined the two decades long fighting in Somalia. But what is surprising is that their moderation and peaceable views traditionally stood in contrast to the violence of Al-Shabab's strict ideologies.Now their clerics are taking up arms - life is not worth living without a gun, they say.
In the past, the clan and the shared group ideology was the channel by which the first preachers spread Islam throughout Somalia. The graves of past Sheikhs still play an important role in the Sufi clan communities, being the focus of visitations, tributes and prayer.After Al-Shabab militants began calling for these beliefs to be eliminated and were linked to the killings of several sheikhs as well as desecrating past sheikhs' graves, moderate Sufis began taking up arms, in a declaration of war against Al-Shabab.In December 2008 violent clashes erupted proper. Sufis experienced early success as Al-Shabab was driven out of several towns in the central region of Galgadud, but the cost of taking up arms is greater than some might have expected.Standing in an arid courtyard it's exercise time as Sheikh Omar Sheikh Mohamed Farah, chairman of Ahlu Sunna, is encouraging his fighters to stand firm against Al-Shabab."We have to be ready to fight those distorting our religion,’’ he says raising his arms, an AK47 rifle in one and the Holy Qur'an in the other."We have never liked to fight but this is a time to do so. Our people and our sheikhs are being killed, our sheikhs’ graves are being desecrated,’’ he furiously shouts.Creeping along their chests and elbows in the pre-dawn exercise, the fighters are chanting religious words in Arabic at the top of their voices, praising the prophet Mohamed.But there are different men of different ages in the group, and they are attracting more moderate volunteers...more..http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=26765
Islamist fighters switch to Somali gov't side
MOGADISHU, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 19 Islamist fighters including a senior commander from Hezbul Islam rebel movement on Tuesday defected to the Somali government, officials said. The Islamist group of Hezbul Islam has lately been fighting Al-Shabaab, another radical Islamist rebel movement, over the controlof the southern port town of Kismayu.
"We have realized that we have been wrongly fighting the government and are now prepared to stand in defense of our people and country," Shuke Abdurrahman Odawa, a senior Islamist commander leading the defecting fighters told reporters. Somali government officials who presented the fighters from the opposition group to the media said in a news conference in the presidential palace in Mogadishu that the government welcomed the fighters. "We are very pleased that our brothers who considered us an enemy until yesterday are now with us and ready to defend the national flag," Security Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Sanbalolshe told reporters. Sanbalolshe said the switchover by the opposition forces to the Somali government showed that Somalis can solve their differences among themselves "if left alone". ..more..http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-10/14/content_12226870.htm