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Somalia's security chief promises reform

Abdullahi Mohammed Ali announces plans to overhaul security forces, seen as internally fractured. His predecessor, Omar Hashi Aden, was killed by militants last month.

July 25, 2009|Reuters

NAIROBI, KENYA — Newly appointed Somali Security Minister Abdullahi Mohammed Ali vowed Friday to reform the security forces in the Horn of Africa nation, seen by many as riven with internal divisions.

Somalia's Western-backed government is struggling to wrest control of the anarchic nation from powerful Islamist-led rebels.

"I think, in wartimes, it is difficult for even a functioning government to organize its forces very effectively. We are trying to reform the police and the military," he said. "Our main priority is to gradually reestablish capable security forces that can defeat the terrorists."

Hard-line Islamist insurgents killed the former security boss, Omar Hashi Aden, in a suicide attack in June in a central town as Aden coordinated operations against Shabab.

A two-year insurgency has killed at least 18,000 people and sent a million or more fleeing their homes.

Somalia's army -- a mix of former rebels, clan militias and a few former army officers -- has been unable to beat Shabab militants or rebels from another Islamist group, Hizbul Islam.

"The security challenges are quite enormous. Everybody understands that it's the biggest challenge, and we are dealing with both humanitarian and security catastrophes in a lawless region," said Ali, who is from the same clan and sub-clan as Aden.

"I recognize there is a lot of risk to the job, knowing my predecessor was assassinated by criminals and terrorist groups," he said.

Ali worked for the United Nations before joining the prime minister's office as chief of staff this year.

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