Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged Somalis in a new audio tape on Thursday to topple the new president, who is already struggling to deal with insurgents in the lawless Horn of Africa country.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist elected this year in the 15th attempt to form a central government, has been trying to reach out to rebels who have waged a guerrilla war for the past two years and control large swathes of territory.

“The war which has been taking place on your soil these past years is a war between Islam and the international crusade,” bin Laden said, according to al Qaeda’s own English translation of the Arabic-language tape.

“These sorts of presidents are the surrogates of our enemies and their authority is null and void in the first place, and as Sheikh Sharif is one of them, he must be dethroned and fought.”

A surge in al Qaeda-linked attacks against Ahmed and his government would intensify the insurgency led by hardline Islamist groups against the government and its foreign backers.

The violence has killed more than 16,000 civilians since the start of 2007, driven more than a million more from their homes and left about a third of the population depending on food aid.

Western security services fear the failed Horn of Africa country could become a base for al Qaeda-linked militants.



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