Somali warlord prepares assault on rival as peace talks falter

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Somalia is bracing for fresh hostilities after talks aimed at stabilising the troubled region broke down in acrimony.

Somalia is bracing for fresh hostilities after talks aimed at stabilising the troubled region broke down in acrimony.

At least one warlord appears to be gearing up for an assault on rival factions. Mohammed Hersi Siad Hersi, who styles himself General Morgan and is a son-in-law of the deposed dictator Siad Barre, is massing his private militia outside the port town of Kismayo near the Kenyan border.

There have been sporadic clashes between General Morgan's troops and those of a rival clan, the Juba Valley Alliance.

But sources said yesterday that General Morgan was preparing an all-out assault on the town, threatening to destroy peace talks that have been limping along for nearly two years in Kenya. General Morgan walked out of the talks in March, complaining that his clan had not been given a sufficiently prominent role.

Since then he has tried to destabilise the talks, incurring the wrath of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad), the international mediators responsible for the peace process.

John Koech, a mediator with Igad, said that the organisation would impose sanctions on General Morgan barring him from travelling to any foreign country, or take him to the International Criminal Court if he did not back down. Mr Koech said General Morgan was guilty of a "blatant act of aggression at this time when Somalia is on the threshold of peace".

General Morgan, who was given the nickname "butcher of Hargeisa" after his ruthless suppression of rebels in the north of the country, tried unsuccessfully to take Kismayo three years ago in a battle that left hundreds of civilians dead and wounded.

But even without General Morgan's military rumblings, the Somali peace talks look shaky. The first sitting of the Transitional Federal Parliament of the Somali Republic took place last week in Nairobi. The 275 members, representing various Somali clans and militias, were supposed to eventually elect a president and prime minister who would form a government in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, but the meeting deteriorated into a scrum within a few minutes.

Kenya has hosted peace talks for almost two years and local businesses have begun to complain about unpaid bills. In one case, 150 delegates were thrown out of a hotel after running up a £650,000 bill that they were unable to settle.

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