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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Islamists in Somali alliance plan
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is accused of al-Qaeda links
Somali Islamists and opposition leaders are meeting in the Eritrean capital Asmara to forge a common front against the transitional government.

About 300 delegates are attending the talks with observers from the European Union, Arab league and the UN.

Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, in hiding and an architect of the Mogadishu insurgency, was there.

Mogadishu has seen a surge in violence since the Ethiopian-backed government troops routed Islamists last December.

The UN refugee agency says some 400,000 people have fled the fighting in the capital in the past four months.

Delegates at the meeting who include the civil society members in the diaspora say they want to free Somalia from Ethiopian occupation.

Ugandan AU soldiers in Somalia (file)
The AU force has failed to deploy effectively in Somalia so far

Thousands of Ethiopian troops were last year sent to help the interim government to oust the Union of Islamic Courts which controlled Mogadishu and part of southern Somalia.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his troops will withdraw once African Union peacekeepers arrive in Mogadishu.

So far only 1,600 Uganda soldiers have been deployed in Somalia as part of the planned 7,000 strong AU peacekeeping mission.

Transitional government forces have been conducting operations against insurgent groups who have been targeting them and Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu.

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