In response to last week’s audio recording by Osama bin Laden calling for the toppling of Somalia’s new government, two notable Somalis and a group of influential Somali Islamic clerics spoke out against al Qaeda. Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, a well-known Islamist (who has himself been accused by the U.S. of having close ties with al Qaeda), and Information Minister Farahan Ali Mohamoud released separate statements urging bin Laden to stay out of Somali affairs. The leader of the Council of Correction and Reconciliation stressed that more than anything Somalis want an end to war and the restoration of law and order.
The twelve-minute audio by bin Laden, "Fight on, champions of Somalia," was released on March 19. It is believed to be Osama bin Laden’s third tape this year, with the two others advocating for a holy war to liberate Palestine. The tape comes after Somalia inaugurated new president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in January, and U.N. peace negotiations attempted to end the 21 years of violence in Somalia. This is the country’s 15th attempt to form a national government.
Also on March 19, the hardline Islamist group al Shabaab beheaded two sheikhs from a rival Islamist movement in the town of Balad, north of Mogadishu. Despite the new leadership under Ahmed and its promise to introduce some form of moderate Islamic law in Somalia, al Shabaab has continued to battle the new government and African Union peacekeepers and now controls many regions in southern and central Somalia. The vocal rejection of bin Laden is a small but welcome sign that Somalis recognize peace must be built from the ground up in Somalia as part of a national dialogue.