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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 16:24 GMT
Somalis protest against AU troops
AU soldier in Sudan
Key warlords oppose the deployment of AU peacekeepers
Thousands of Somalis have taken part in a protest in Mogadishu against the deployment of foreign troops.

The protest was organised by an Islamist umbrella organisation with the support of two members of the cabinet.

One of the top organisers, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed, urged demonstrators to prepare for holy war against foreign troops.

The African Union (AU) has authorised the deployment of thousands of troops from several regional countries to help with the relocation of the government.

The new Somali Cabinet of President Abdullahi Yusuf is due to begin returning from Kenya on 21 February.

Somalia has been without an effective government since the overthrow of President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Since then, rival warlords have battled for control of the country, and Somalia has been divided into a patchwork of fiefdoms.

A question of faith

The demonstration was jointly organised by the Islamic Courts' Union, Umbrella Organisation of Islamic Clerics and the supporters of two warlords-turned-cabinet ministers, Husein Aideed and Osman Ali Ato.

It was peaceful, with hundreds of heavily armed militias providing security as demonstrators poured into the capital's Trabunka Square aboard mini-buses and big lorries, says the BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

"We don't need foreign intervention... African soldiers are unacceptable on the grounds of faith" were some of the slogans shouted at the rally.

"Having Somalia's neighbours lead and constitute such a force would be unnecessarily inflammatory and could jeopardise the entire peace process," said Sheikh Abdulahi Ali, a member of the Somali clerics council.

Regional Governor Abdullahi Ganey Frimbi, who also joined to the demonstration, has said much blood will be shed if troops from Ethiopia are deployed in Somalia.

"We reject Ethiopian intervention and request parliament not to approve the peace mission, which will allow an old enemy of Somalis to enter their territory," he said.

The Secretary General of the Umbrella Organisation of Islamic Clerics, Ibrahim Suley, issued a statement saying: "We reject all foreign intervention and request parliament not to approve the peace mission, which will allow African forces to enter Somalia.

"We are not of the same religion and that is why we cannot accept them."

The Somali transitional government was divided over the issue of foreign troops and parliament had not yet approved the measure.

Various Somali leaders and groups had threatened to oppose such an intervention by force, our correspondent says.


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