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Bin Laden urges Somalis to topple new president
Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:25am EDT
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By Firouz Sedarat and Lin Noueihed
DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged Somalis in a new audio tape 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.
Somali opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys dismissed the new president this month as another stooge of neighboring Ethiopia and a traitor to Islamists -- a message echoed by the Saudi-born al Qaeda leader.
"OBLIGATION TO FIGHT"
"My Muslim brothers in Somalia: you must beware of the initiatives which wear the dress of Islam and the religious institutions even as they contradict the rules of Islamic sharia, like the initiative attributed to some of the clerics of Somalia which gives Sheikh Sharif six months to implement Islamic sharia," he said.
"The obligation is to fight the apostate government, not stop fighting it."
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the authenticity of the tape, titled "Fight on, champions of Somalia," but the voice sounded like that of bin Laden.
In his second message posted in less than a week, bin Laden also called on Muslims to help the Somalis in their jihad.
More than 60 messages have been broadcast by bin Laden, his second-in-command Ayman al-Zawhiri and their allies since the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities in 2001.
In his previous message, bin Laden accused moderate Arab leaders of pitting the West against Muslims. Continued...
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