Somalia launches ideology war against Al-Shabaab
Somalia has declared an ideological war against Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group, creating a government office for Muslim scholars to refute Al-Shabaab's militant ideology and influence public opinion.
"You are a very important part of the governance of this nation and play a leading role in the fight against Al-Shabaab," Premier Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed told religious leaders Saturday, according to a press release mailed to Anadolu Agency by his office.
"That is why I'm creating a government office for religious scholars to incorporate you closer to the government and help bridge the gap between the people and the government," he added.
"You will have a leading role in helping influence public opinion and be part of the decision-making of this government," vowed the prime minister.
He vowed to create a framework of increased cooperation between the government and religious scholars.
"It is our national and religious duty to fight against Al-Shabaab… You have a big role in defending our religion, our people and our country," Ahmed told the scholars.
Two Somalis were killed and three others injured in a car bombing outside a hotel in central Mogadishu earlier today.
A bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into the garage of the Makkah Al-Mukarama hotel, which is popular with government officials.
In November, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud vowed that 2014 would witness the end of the Al-Shabaab.
The group was driven out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011 but still controls many smaller towns and rural areas in the south of war-torn Somalia.
The Horn of Africa country has suffered from on-again, off-again violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The country had appeared to inch closer to stability with the recent installation of a new government and the intervention of African Union troops tasked with combatting Al-Shabaab.
Nor Barud, the vice chairman of the Somali Religious Union, vowed support for the government's ideological war against the dreaded militant group.
"This is a very critical time to clarify what is wrong and what is right," he told the meeting.
"The religious leaders are leaders of the people so we must clarify the religious issues of the country," he added.
Most of the pro-government scholars are drawn from the Somali Sufi sect and a number of moderate Salafist movements.
"Al-Shabaab are claiming to be religious but killing innocent people in sacred places like mosques show they are not true Muslims," said Barud. "They are misguided."
Al-Shabaab claims to want to establish Islamic sharia across Somalia.
It had a popular following when it was launched back in 2006 with many Somalis believing the outfit’s intention was to protect Somalia from the invasion of the mainly Christian Ethiopian army.
However, the killings of fellow Somalis and the destruction of tombs of Sufi saints saw its popularity dwindle.
Source: Anadolu Agency