Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Somali Islamists threaten AU peacekeepers

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A Somali Islamist group threatened on Tuesday to fight any peacekeeping troops sent to their country as African leaders struggled to put together an international force for the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

The European Union released 15 million euros ($19 million) to finance peacekeeping operations, but leaders at an African Union summit were still seeking the 4,000 troops they need to bring the projected force up to strength.

A total of 8,000 troops are seen as necessary to fill a power vacuum when Ethiopian troops pull out after having backed the government in a brief war that defeated the Islamists who had run much of the country for the previous six months.

"If African troops are not in place quickly, then there will be chaos," African Union commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare told the summit.

Delegates to the summit in Addis Ababa said Ghana, Algeria, Tanzania and Zambia were considering whether to provide troops but final pledges might not be made at the talks. So far Uganda, Nigeria and Malawi have promised soldiers.

As the African leaders deliberated, a Somali Islamist Web site posted a message apparently from a new insurgent group which spelled out the dangers awaiting any peacekeeping force.

"Somalia is not a place where you can come to earn a salary -- it is a place where you can die," said the self-styled Popular Resistance Movement.

"The salary you are coming to look for here would be used to transport your coffin back home.". . . .

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