NAIROBI – Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s transitional minister of planning and international cooperation told BBC Somali-Services that Somalia’s moderate Ahlu Sunna Waljama (ASWJ) militia were part of his regime on Saturday.

He proclaimed the Sufi paramilitary group operating mainly in central Somalia which consists of former warlords and religious clerics were using “Ahlu Sunna Waljama” as a label but they are a government militia. He added they have number of senior ministers and military officials within the TFG and are well represented.

In march 2010, Ahlu Sunna Waljama and Somalia’s transitional government led by former cleric Sheikh Sharif signed a power sharing agreement in the Ethiopian capital. The Sufis, however said while their fighters were happy to operate along side the TFG forces against al-Shabab, the TFG has failed to fulfil the agreement terms.

A Pro-government militant from the Sufi sect Ahlusunna, patrols in southern Mogadishu's Bermuda neighborhood (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
A Pro-government militant from the Sufi sect Ahlusunna, patrols in southern Mogadishu's Bermuda neighborhood (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

The chairman of ASWJ, Sheikh Omar Abdikadir Aden, insists his group only has one senior figure in the TFG cabinet.

It is unclear how Ahlu Sunna will react to the latest claims by a senior TFG figure saying the group are loyal to his regime and were only using the “Ahlu Sunna” shirt for other purposes. He made the remarks while visiting the United States along with his prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”.

Ahlu Sunna are Sufi group made up of religious clerics and former warlords who insist they have been prosecuted under al-Shabab. Many of their Sufi shrines and tombs of “saints” in southern Somalia were destroyed by al-Shabab over the past few years. Al-Shabab which follows more strict teachings of Islam considers shrines and tombs a cult. They say people should be praying directly to God rather than saints and shrines of dead people. On the other hand, Ahlu Sunna follows a mystical sect within Islam that arrived in the Horn of Africa in the 15th century. The group operates in the central regions of Galgadud, Gedo and Mudug as well as parts of the capital Mogadishu.

On Friday Ahlu Sunna militants supported by Ethiopian forces launched premeditated attacks against several al-Shabab fronts in central Somalia. At least 15 people were killed and scores injured according to eye witnesses in El-Lahelay, a village near the central town of Dhusamareb, in Galgudud region. Many of the casualties are said to be Ahlu Sunna fighters and the group has retreated back from the village.

Somalia has not had a functioning government in two decades, and piracy has flourished off its coast.

Somalilandpress | 12 March 2011