From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Nov 01 2008 - 20:43:07 EST
Moderate Islamist returns to Somalia for talks
Sat 1 Nov 2008, 20:34 GMT
MOGADISHU, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The Islamist leader of Somalia's moderate opposition faction returned to the Horn of Africa nation on Saturday for the first time in nearly two years to brief local elders on a peace deal with the government.
Scores of heavily armed Islamist insurgents provided security as Sheikh Sharif Ahmed arrived in the rebel-held town of Jowhar, 90 km (55 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu.
Sharif's Eritrea-based faction signed a truce in August with Somalia's interim government at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti.
"We want to explain in detail the significance of the peace deal and articles of the agreement to our colleagues in the country," Sharif told Reuters from Jowhar.
"Considering the suffering of our people at the moment, we the opposition decided to take part in a government of national unity that will end nearly two decades of civil unrest".
He said he had not yet decided where to go, or whether he would leave Somalia again, after the discussions in Jowhar.
The Djibouti talks have been rejected by a hardline opposition faction and al Shabaab militants suspected of being behind a wave of car bombings in northern Somalia that killed 30 people on Wednesday. The United States blamed al Qaeda, which it says works through Shabaab.
The violence in Somalia has killed nearly 10,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and forced more than a million from their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis that aid workers say is one of the worst -- and most neglected -- in Africa. (Reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.
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