The leader of Somalia’s moderate Islamist opposition called on Saturday for international forces to deploy when Ethiopian troops leave the Horn of Africa nation, to create a chance of reaching a peaceful settlement.

som-iEthiopia said on Friday it would pull out by the end of the year the thousands of soldiers it sent in to support Somalia’s Western-backed interim administration, raising the spectre of a security vacuum in an already chaotic and violent country.

Nearly two decades of chaos in the poor Horn of Africa country have created a breeding ground for kidnappings, banditry and rampant piracy in the busy shipping lanes offshore.Somalia’s government has struggled to battle Islamist militants waging an Iraq-style insurgency. They control most of the south and have been slowly advancing on Mogadishu.

“We need also the stabilisation force to be brought to Somalia,” Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told a panel of African elder statesmen in Kenya. “We are guaranteeing that you will be welcome … we will be there for you when you need our help.”

“We must not miss this very essential window of opportunity when we are actually seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Sharif, who heads a moderate Islamist faction based in Eritrea.



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