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ICC NOTE: Further evidence of a Somalia that is turning into another Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled. Perhaps a military training camp does not directly affect Christians in the country, but it is more the fruits of a movement that does not desire to be open to other faiths or paradigms of thinking, which ultimately does affect Christians. The military camp shows they will defend their way of life at all costs.

Somali Islamists, foreign trainers open militia camp

Wed 23 Aug 2006

For the full article go to Reuters

By Mohamed Ali Bile MOGADISHU, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement opened a militia training camp on Wednesday with trainers from Eritrea , Afghanistan and Pakistan , witnesses said.

The presence of foreign trainers points to what many fear is a growing internationalisation of a crisis that has split the Horn of Africa nation and threatened the slim authority of its interim government.

The Islamists’ hardline leader, Shiekh Hassan Dahir Aweys, attended the opening of the camp for more than 600 Islamist militiamen at Hiilweyne, north of Mogadishu .

“You will study military tactics, because you will defend your country with Islamic morality,” Aweys told the recruits.

Witnesses identified foreign trainers from Eritrea , Pakistan and Afghanistan at the camp.

Diplomats fear Somalia could become a proxy battleground for Ethiopia and Eritrea , and have said that more players like Libya , Iran and Egypt have quietly entered the fray.

Eritrea has long denied any involvement in Somalia , but a U.N. Security Council report said it has sent weapons to the Islamists repeatedly in a bid to frustrate rival Ethiopia .

Meanwhile, the Islamists said Ethiopian soldiers and a warlord ally of the government had taken a town along the Ethiopian border, stoking fears of new clashes.

The Islamists, who seized the capital Mogadishu and key southern territories in June after routing U.S.-backed warlords, have refused to negotiate with the government until the Ethiopians leave.

Qaybdiid was one of the last warlords to surrender his militias to the Islamists in a clan-brokered deal in July.

But tensions have been running high in Galkaayo since he returned there two weeks ago with more fighters and dozens of “technicals” — pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons.

Qaybdiid is opposed to the Islamists setting up in the town, some 750 km (465 miles) north of Mogadishu . “We are scared the fighting could hit residential areas where there are many women and children,” one local elder said.

The Islamists oppose the interim government, based in the provincial town of Baidoa because it does not have the military strength to go to Mogadishu .

In the capital, the Islamists also held an official opening ceremony for Mogadishu International Seaport — closed since 1995 — boosting their claim to be restoring normality.

“From now on, Mogadishu seaport is open and all Mogadishu businessmen should use it,” a senior Islamist leader, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, told the gathered crowd.