Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 09:37 UK

Somalia's factions sign ceasefire

Somali government troops. File photo
Somali forces have been struggling to contain the violence

Somalia's government has signed a three-month ceasefire pact with an opposition bloc aimed at ending years of conflict, a UN envoy says.

The deal also envisages that Ethiopian troops leave Somalia within 120 days once UN peacekeepers are deployed.

But Somali Islamist leader Hassan Dahir Aweys has rejected the deal saying all foreign troops must leave the country.

A BBC reporter in Mogadishu says many callers to radio stations in the capital have welcomed the news.

We shall continue fighting until we liberate our country from the enemies of Allah
UIC leader Hassan Dahir Aweys

UN envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah said the government and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia agreed to cease hostilities for three months.

The deal brokered at UN-led talks in Djibouti does not include many of the armed Somali groups at present fighting the transitional government and the Ethiopian troops backing it.

Correspondents say it is not clear if it will have any impact on the clashes which are still killing dozens of people every week.

At least 28 people were killed during clashes between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian troops backing the Somali government over the weekend.

On Saturday, BBC Somali service reporter Nasteh Dahir was killed by suspected Islamist militants in the southern port of Kismayo.

UN peacekeepers

The talks in Djibouti were the latest attempt to negotiate an end to the anarchy in Somalia.

But Mr Aweys, the founder of the Union of Islamic Courts which ruled much of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian forces backed by Somali government troops, never supported the talks.

A woman wounded in an artillery battle is taken to Medina Hospital in Mogadishu on June 8, 2008
Mogadishu has seen fighting between Ethiopian troops and insurgents

"We shall continue fighting until we liberate our country from the enemies of Allah," he told Mogadishu-based Shabelle radio.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says news of the deal has surprised many as on Monday night the talks seemed on the verge of collapse.

Many people displaced by the fighting have been calling radio stations to express their relief, he says.

But there is also much scepticism about how the deal will be implemented.

The deal was reached after the Somali government team and members of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia held their first face-to-face talks in neighbouring Djibouti, Mr Ould Abdallah told the BBC.

"It took eight days to attend workshops, to live in the same hotel, but avoiding each other. Finally they met... Confidence resumed slowly, and we have to support and nurture that renewed confidence," he said.

"The cessation of armed confrontations shall come into force 30 days from the signing of this agreement throughout the national territory," the text of the deal said, according to the AFP news agency.

The agreement covers an initial period of 90 days, after which it is up for renewal.

It also envisages that Ethiopian troops will withdraw from Somalia within 120 days, once a UN peacekeeping force is deployed.

Some 2,200 African Union troops are in Mogadishu, but have done little to quell the violence which has triggered a humanitarian crisis that aid workers say may be the worst in Africa.

It is estimated that the conflict has created more than one million refugees.

Somalia has experienced almost constant civil conflict since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre's regime in January 1991.

Country profile: Somalia
02 May 08 |  Country profiles


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