Somalia must not become a haven for al-Qa'ida militants, Bush warns

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The Independent Online

International ramifications over Islamist victories in Somalia continue, with President George Bush declaring he will not allow the country to become an "al-Qa'ida haven" even as the militias themselves vowed to make the Horn of Africa "a land under the Koran".

Amid concerns that other states in the region may become destablised, Kenya yesterday kicked out a Somali warlord and announced it would ban others involved in the conflict from entering the country.

The developments follow the defeat of a coalition of US-backed warlords by Islamists who have taken control of the capital, Mogadishu, and have followed their enemies to the town of Jowhar, where a battle is thought to be imminent.

Warlord forces in Jowhar were putting up defensive positions with weapons, said to have arrived from camps in the Congo. At the same time, one of their commanders, Mohamed Dheere, was reported to have travelled to Ethiopia in an effort to obtain further supplies.

Asked about the unfolding crisis, President Bush said: "There is instability in Somalia. First concern of course would be to make sure that Somalia does not become an al-Qa'ida safe haven, doesn't become a place from which terrorists plot and plan..."

Despite repeated pledges by Islamist groups to continue their violent campaign, the situation inside Mogadishu remained confused. Two rival rallies were held, one in support of the Islamists while the other demanded they leave. There were also reports of friction between the Islamists and clan leaders allied to them over disarmament.

Three months of fierce fighting has led to hundreds of people being killed and thousands injured in the city. Last night, with fears growing of impending violence in Jowhar, long lines of people began to leave their homes.