Somali President Says Islamists Control Most of Country

November 16, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: International Herald Tribune

Wire Service: Reuters

President Abdullahi Yusuf has admitted Islamist insurgents now control most of Somalia, and he raised the prospect that his government could completely collapse.

Islamists have been slowly advancing on the capital, raising the stakes in their two-year rebellion and undermining fragile UN-brokered peace talks to end 17 years of chaos in the Horn of Africa nation. A grenade attack Sunday killed four people and injured nine others in Baidoa, the government's seat.

"Most of the country is in the hands of Islamists and we are only in Mogadishu and Baidoa, where there is daily war," Yusuf told some of his legislators in neighboring Kenya on Saturday.

His remarks were aired by Somali media late Saturday.

"We, ourselves, are behind the problems and we are accountable in this world and in the hereafter. Islamists have been capturing all towns and now control Elasha. It is every man for himself if the government collapses.

The Islamists kill city cleaners, they will not spare legislators," Yusuf said.

Elasha is only 15 kilometers, or 9 miles, south of Mogadishu.

The insurgents have been enforcing a strict form of Islamic law in areas they capture. On Saturday, they whipped 32 people for taking part in a traditional dance in rebel-held territory south of the capital.