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'Insurgents control most of Somalia'

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed has admitted that Islamic insurgents are now in control of most of Somalia.

world Updated: Nov 16, 2008 18:06 IST

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed has admitted that Islamic insurgents, who have been making major gains, are now in control of most of Somalia.

Insurgent group al-Shabaab this week advanced to the edge of the capital Mogadishu and has seized important towns such as the strategic port Kismayo in recent months.

Yusuf, who was in Kenyan capital Nairobi speaking to members of parliament on Saturday after attempts to form a new cabinet failed, said that the government could not even keep order in Mogadishu and Baidoa, the seat of parliament.

"Islamists have taken over everywhere else, so if I ask you parliamentarians: do you know the situation we face? Who causes all these problems? We are to blame," the BBC quoted him as saying.

Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein have been unable to agree on a new cabinet as a political dispute sparked by the ousting of the Mogadishu mayor drags on.

Regional leaders gave Somalia a deadline of Nov 12 to resolve the dispute and attempt to restore some kind of governance.

However, Yusuf said that their failure to do so was responsible for the advance of the Islamists and called on Somali members of parliament who had remained in Nairobi after a regional meeting last month to return home.

Insurgents have been fighting Somalia's transitional federal government since Ethiopian troops helped oust the Union of Islamic Courts in early 2007.

As the insurgents take over more territory, human rights activists are concerned that stringent punishments will be handed out under the

rebels' interpretation of Islamic law.

Fears were raised by a recent case in Kismayo, when a 13-year-old girl who complained of being raped by three men was stoned to death for adultery.

Civilians have suffered horrendously during the fighting, often finding themselves caught in the crossfire.

An estimated 10,000 civilians have died since the insurgency began and almost one million have fled their homes, many from Mogadishu.

The Horn of Africa nation has been plagued by chaos and civil war since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

First Published: Nov 16, 2008 15:47 IST