Former U.S. Marine Reservist Named as New Somali Faction Leader
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ A former U.S. Marine reservist who served in Somalia has been named leader of a Somali faction, succeeding his father, the warlord who humiliated the United States by eluding capture.
Hussein Mohamed Aidid was named Sunday to replace Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who died Thursday. The elder Aidid, 61, was wounded in recent fighting over a south Mogadishu neighborhood.
The appointment of the younger Aidid, 31, dampened hopes that the general’s death would lead to reconciliation in Somalia. Earlier Sunday, Aidid supporters formally rejected a proposal from rival faction leaders for negotiations between Somalia’s 16 warring factions.
Rival faction leader Osman Hassan Ali Atto, speaking on his radio station in Kenya Sunday, said the appointment ``will further ignite the already complicated situation in Somalia.″
Ali Madhi Mohamed, another faction leader, said the appointment marked a ``lost opportunity″ and that he and Atto would reconsider the unilateral cease-fire they declared after Aidid’s burial on Friday.
``We have put our forces on alert and supporters of the late Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid will bear the consequences of their actions,″ Ali Madhi said today in a radio interview.
In a further sign of rising tensions in Mogadishu, Aidid’s soldiers reportedly killed two fighters of Ali Madhi’s faction late Sunday near the line dividing the Somali capital.
The Horn of Africa nation of 8 million has been without effective central government since 1991, when it dissolved into a collection of fiefdoms after the overthrow of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. More than 350,000 Somalis since have died from starvation or in fighting.
When an American-led U.N. task force entered Somalia in 1992, the younger Aidid had been living in Los Angeles and volunteered for active duty in the Marine reserve.
A corporal trained as an artilleryman, he served two weeks in Somalia, but left before U.S. forces began chasing down his father in 1993. Eighteen American troops and 300 Somalis were killed in a botched raid on the elder Aidid’s headquarters, forcing President Clinton to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
On Sunday, about 200 people gathered in the Aidid stronghold of south Mogadishu to support the new leader, who declared amid applause and cheers that he would eliminate enemies at home and abroad.
``I will continue the policies of the former president,″ Hussein Mohamed Aidid said after he was sworn in by a Muslim clergyman.
Aidid will serve a two-year term as president of the United Somali Congress-Somali National Alliance, whose members are primarily from the Hawiye clan, one of six in Somalia.
The younger Aidid was nominated by his sub-clan, the Habr-Gedir, and approved by the general’s leadership council. The faction’s radio station said he also was named interim president of Somalia. The elder Aidid was named president by his supporters last year.
In a document issued Sunday, the council vowed to continue the general’s policies, including ``pacification.″ By pacification the elder Aidid meant bringing other factions under his control.
The council accused ``foreign governments and international agencies″ of being behind Somalia’s problems. It said Somalis ``are capable of sorting out their problems,″ but welcomed cooperation with foreign governments and international relief agencies.
In Cairo, Egypt, the 22-member Arab League urged Somali factions Sunday to work out a peaceful settlement and offered to sponsor negotiations to end the fighting. Somalia is a member of the league.
``We call on all the Somali factions to rise above their tribal fights and renounce all violence and factional fighting and choose dialogue to find a national settlement framework,″ its statement said.