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Somali PM says his country is haven for Al-Qaeda

world Updated: Oct 28, 2009 22:59 IST

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Al-Qaeda is using Somalia to train, regroup and plan further attacks, the Somali prime minister said Wednesday, warning it was also beginning to threaten regional stability.

"Somalia has now clearly become a haven for the pariah that is Al-Qaeda," Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke said in a speech in London.

"We cannot be certain of the precise size of their presence in our country but Al-Qaeda are here, they are training and planning in our land. Somalia is serving as an ideal place for them to re-group and redeploy."

The Al-Qaeda inspired-Shebab group and allied hardline Islamists control large swathes of southern and central Somalia, and Sharmarke said defeating them was important not only to his country but "to the whole world".

He said the insurgency was also spreading to other countries and "Al Shabab is now starting to threaten regional stability".

"And Somalia does risk being taken over by Al-Qaeda, just as Afghanistan was the haven of Al-Qaeda in the 1990s," he told the Royal Institute of International Affairs think-tank at Chatham House in London.

Sharmarke said that an exclusively military response would not work, saying strong government and regeneration was needed to provide an alternative.

"An insurgency needs chaos, discontent and poverty and we must take that away," he said.

Sharmarke is part of a Western-backed transitional government headed by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed that took over earlier this year, but has faced a renewed campaign by the hardline Islamist Shebab.

Somalia has been gripped by civil wars and insurgencies and bereft of stable government since the overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.