MOGADISHU (AFP) — Somalia's hardline Islamist rebels admitted Tuesday receiving backing from foreign fighters in recent battles against government troops.
"Those who say our Muslim brothers are foreigners are wrong. They came to assist their brothers in Somalia," Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, a senior Shebab official said without specifying the fighters' nationalities or number.
A senior official in the embattled government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed confirmed the presence of foreign fighters on Somali territory.
"Our country is at war with foreign mercenaries who are destabilising Somalia," said the official on condition of anonymity.
"We will fight them and defeat them. We are also urging the Somali people to support the government," he added.
But the Shebab official said: "Some of them have been martyred, others were injured while the rest are still ready to fight for the sake of their Muslim brothers."
The top UN envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah called in a statement for an end to the violence which be blamed on "irresponsible elements backed by foreigners ... in an attempt to seize power by force".
The latest fighting in Mogadishu that killed at least 41 people, was among the heaviest in months. The Shebab launched attacks on government troops in February, shortly after Ahmed was elected.
The hardliners have rejected talks with Ahmed's government, even after it endorsed plans to introduce Islamic law, a key demand of the opposition militants.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »