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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 11:01 GMT
Somali 'terrorists return home'
Somali PM Hassan Abshir Farah
Farah is due to arrive in Kenya on Thursday
Somali fighters are fleeing Afghanistan and returning home, according to warlord Hussein Aideed.

The al-Itihad and the al-Qaeda terrorists who escaped from Afghanistan are already trickling back into Somalia

Hussein Aideed
Mr Aideed urged the United States to act against the men he said belonged to al-Itihad al-Islamiya, which the US says is affiliated to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Mr Aideed is boycotting Somali peace talks in Kenya which have been postponed to Friday.

Other members of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council have already arrived in Nairobi, while Somali's Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah is expected to arrived on Thursday, along with his delegation.

'Unlimited funds'

"The al-Itihad and the al-Qaeda terrorists who escaped from Afghanistan are already trickling back into Somalia," Mr Aideed told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Hussein Aideed
Aideed wants the US to attack Somalia

"These groups have unlimited funds which they receive from Islamic non-governmental organisations and Arab states which they are using to woo poverty-stricken Somalis to their side."

The SRRC is supported by Ethiopia, which has frequently been attacked by al-Itihad and which also says the group is linked to al-Qaeda.

Earlier this week, a US military delegation met with some members of the SRRC in the southern town of Baidoa amid speculation that Somalia might be the next target of the US "war against terror".

Not launch-pad

US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner said on Wednesday that there was a real possibility that terrorist cells were operating in Somalia.

"Somalia is an environment that could be hospitable to terrorists and terrorist cells. The first goal is to make it inhospitable," he told reporters in South Africa, without elaborating.

President  Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
Salat has denied harbouring terrorists

Mr Kansteiner was on the last leg of an African tour which also took him to Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The US embassy in Nairobi has moved to play down media reports that Kenya might be used as a launch-pad to strikes on Somalia.

"During last week's visit to Kenya by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner, he did not discuss any operational issues concerning the use of Kenyan facilities or military bases," a spokesman at the US embassy in Nairobi told the French news agency, AFP.

Limited control

The transitional government of President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan has repeatedly denied accusations that there are terrorist training camps in Somalia.

But it only controls part of the capital, Mogadishu and none of the other regions, which are being fought over by rival warlords.

Somalia is an environment that could be hospitable to terrorists and terrorist cells. The first goal is to make it inhospitable

Walter Kansteiner

Some diplomats in the region say that Ethiopia and Somali warlords are trying to persuade the US to attack Somalia in order to further their individual political interests.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday that the US-led war on terrorism should be confined to Afghanistan and not extended to Somalia or anywhere else.

With Mr Aideed and others boycotting the Nairobi talks, the BBC's Ishbel Matheson in Nairobi says they are doomed before they even start.

But another SRRC warlord, Osman Hassan Ali Atto, has gone to Kenya, along with the council's secretary's general Mowlid Maan Mohamud.

Somalia has been the theatre of a vicious civil war since the late Siad Barre was overthrown 10 years ago.

See also:

28 Nov 01 | Africa
Somalia, Ethiopia mend fences
27 Nov 01 | Africa
Somalia welcomes US troops
13 Nov 01 | Africa
Somalis stranded in Ethiopia
12 Nov 01 | Africa
New PM in Somalia
08 Nov 01 | Africa
Somali company 'not terrorist'
26 Sep 01 | Africa
US targets Somali group
24 Sep 01 | Africa
UN pulls out of Somalia
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