Hardline opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said on Friday that there would be no talks with the transitional government until African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) leave the Horn of Africa nation.

hardline1Aweys, who is on the U.S. terrorism list for alleged links to al Qaeda, is an influential figure among Islamist insurgent groups fighting the interim government in Somalia where one million people have been displaced and thousands killed. “Let AMISOM leave then we shall have talks with our deceived friends, government officials,” Aweys told opposition supporters in the Somali capital.

“AMISOM is not a peacekeeping force … They are bacteria in Somalia. Somalia has not yet reached peaceful agreement. So be patient. We are left with little time to fight and achieve our Islamic objective,” he told hundreds of supporters. A 4,300-strong AU peacekeeping mission in the Somali capital has faced near-daily attacks. Analysts say the insurgents are preparing to step up assaults on peacekeepers there.

Aweys, who heads the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), arrived in the country on Thursday in his first known trip home since he was ousted by an Ethiopian offensive in late 2006. Aweys, along with current Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, headed the Islamic Courts Union which controlled Mogadishu and much of the south until Addis Ababa’s December 2006 offensive crushed the burgeoning Islamist movement.


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