Sunday 17 February 2019

Islamists on verge of seizing Somalia capital

Zoe Alsop in Nairobi

The president of Somalia's official government resigned yesterday, causing yet more political turmoil, as radical Islamists prepared to seize the capital, Mogadishu.

Abdullahi Yusuf, a 74-year-old former warlord, admitted that his Western-backed transitional government had failed to unite the country during his four-year tenure.

"I had promised to return the power if I could not bring peace, stability and democracy where people can elect their leader," he said.

Mr Yusuf's government controlled hardly any territory and depended largely on troops from neighbouring Ethiopia, who invaded Somalia in December 2006. However, they are on the point of leaving. Once Ethiopian forces depart, radical Islamists are likely to seize Mogadishu and large areas of southern Somalia.

Mr Yusuf has chosen to resign a few days before he would otherwise have been overthrown or forced to evacuate the capital.

The outgoing president explained that he had been unable to pay his soldiers. "Then the army disintegrated, unable to fight extremists," he explained to reporters.

Mr Yusuf is a polarising figure in Somalia. He refused to negotiate with moderate Islamist opposition, pushing them into the arms of the hardline movements, which may have links to al-Qa'ida and is now poised to locked into a power struggle with his prime minister, Nur Hassan Hussein. Somalia has had no functioning central govern-ment since 1991. ©Daily Telegraph, London)

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