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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Somalia blocks air, sea ports to curb rebels

Tue, 26 May 2009 | PressTV

The Somali government has announced an immediate blockade on airstrips and seaports in the rebel controlled center and south of the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

"Beginning today [May 25] sea ports and airports not under the government's control will be closed to any flights or shipments except for humanitarian purposes," Press TV correspondent quoted Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamud as saying.
Al-Shabaab militants hold sway over large areas of
south central Somalia.

The announcement comes on the heels of a proposal put forward by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) calling for the imposition of an embargo on south-central Somali airports and seaports run by extremist al-Shabaab militias.

Speaking after a closed-door cabinet meeting in the capital Mogadishu, Mohamoud said the sanctions were aimed at curbing the flow of arms and foreign fighters into the country and would not extend to humanitarian flights or shipments.

The minister further called on the United Nations to adopt a similar measure to the one taken by the six-nation regional bloc -- comprising of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Somalia.

Earlier on Monday, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who has been facing the Herculean task of patching together the country's divided factions, called for international assistance in dealing with the fresh wave of insurgency.

He also blamed Iraqi and Afghan fighters for backing rebel forces in their latest tug-of-war with government forces over the control of Mogadishu.

The latest fighting has left more than 180 people dead and an estimated 60, 000 homeless since it broke out almost two weeks ago.

The militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the recent round of car bomb attacks which killed at least 10 people, including seven government forces, and has confirmed that the group has foreign fighters within its ranks.

The armed rebels control most of south-central Somalia where a number of airstrips and the two main ports of Kismayu and Marka are located.

The latest blockade comes as Somalia has been subject to a UN arms embargo for many years. However, weapons are still freely available in the Mogadishu weapons market.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991 and years of fighting in the country have left some three million people - a third of the population - in need of humanitarian aid. Justify Full

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