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Somalis Protest Militia; 100 Arrested

October 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

BAIDOA, Somalia — About 100 demonstrators were arrested at protests against an Islamic militia that has seized much of southern Somalia, a new official said Saturday.

One person was injured when militiamen fired into the air as they tried to disperse the crowd in Kismayo, a key seaport about 260 miles southwest of the nominal capital, Mogadishu.

On Friday, the militia appointed a new mayor and a new officer in charge of security in Kismayo. Abdu-Kadir Ahmed, the new security officer, said the arrests took place Friday and Saturday.

"Most of these people were not regular demonstrators; they have a hidden political agenda to undermine our administration. Therefore, they will face Islamic law for their crimes," he said.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another.

A transitional government was formed in 2004 with United Nations help in hopes of restoring order. But it has struggled to assert authority, and the Islamic movement in June seized Mogadishu and now controls much of the south.

Hundreds of demonstrators began protesting after the militia appointed the new officials, saying the Islamists did not consult them when forming the administration. The protesters burned tires, threw stones and vandalized shops.

"They brought people who ... come from neither the town nor the entire region and name them as administrators," Mohamed Jama, one of the protesters, said by telephone.

When the Islamists took control of Kismayo on Sept. 24, thousands turned out to protest the group after they arrived, and a 13-year-old was killed when militiamen opened fire.

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