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ICC NOTE: Many experts continue to point to the developments in Somalia and its parallels to the Taliban in Afghanistan . As Islamic groups unite, this could be devastating Christians and other divergent faith groups, not just in Somalia but the Horn itself.

Somali Islamic militias to unite, official says

For the full article go to CNN

September 29 2006

MOGADISHU — Muslim fundamentalist militias who have seized control of much of war-ravaged Somalia are to be unified under one Islamic army, an official said Friday.

Fighters are to be brought together in the coming days at a training camp on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu , and be under the direct control of the Union of the Islamic Courts.

“This is a unified Islamic Force,” Sheik Mukhtar Robow, deputy chief security of the Islamic group, said. “We will be more organized than before.”

Despite a cease-fire agreement with the virtually powerless government, the Islamic group has continued its advances in the country. The establishment of one unified army would been seen as further provocation to Somalia ‘s weak administration, set up in 2004 with U.N. help.

Islamic forces are divided along clan and ideological lines, with some more radical in their interpretation of Islam than others.

Robow declined to give details on the numbers in the force or when it would be ready.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.

The government has struggled to assert authority, while the Islamic movement seized Mogadishu after fierce battles with secular warlords in June and now controls much of the south.

The Islamic group’s strict and often severe interpretation of Islam raises memories of Afghanistan ‘s Taliban, which was ousted by a U.S.-led campaign for harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters.

The United States has accused Somalia ‘s Islamic group of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania . Bin Laden has said Somalia is a battleground in his war on the West.