SOMALIA: IGAD warns warlord over reported plan to attack southern townNAIROBI, 6 September 2004 (IRIN) - Gen Muhammad Sa'id Hersi "Morgan", leader of one of Somalia's armed factions, could eventually be prosecuted if he launched an offensive on the southern port of Kismayo, the chief mediator in the Somali peace process said on Monday.
"We are monitoring the situation," Bethel Kiplagat, a Kenyan career diplomat, told IRIN. Asked what sanctions regional states could consider, he said: "They will not allow him to visit any of our neighbouring countries. He could also be charged in the International Criminal Court."
Morgan has boycotted ongoing reconciliation talks facilitated by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a subregional organisation made up of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and, nominally, Somalia.
The IGAD Facilitation Committee said in a statement issued on Friday by its chairman, John arap Koech, that it had learnt that "Morgan" was "advancing with troops towards the town of Kismayo". Koech, who is also Kenya's regional cooperation minister, said attacking Kismayo would be a "blatant act of aggression at a time when Somalia is on the threshold of lasting peace".
"The IGAD Facilitation Committee takes this opportunity to condemn the anti-peace activities of Morgan and his associates and calls on him to halt his aggression immediately and rejoin the peace process," Koech said. "Failure to heed this call will leave IGAD member states and the international community with no other option but to institute stern action including sanctions banning Morgan and his associates from travelling to neighbouring countries."
Col Barre Adan Shire Hirale, the chairman of the Juba Valley Alliance [JVA] militia which controls Kismayo, 500 km south of Mogadishu, claimed on Monday that Morgan was receiving support from the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia.
"All his forces have been sent from Puntland with the approval of Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad [Puntland's leader]," Hirale told IRIN. He said Morgan and his forces were currently near the town of Bu'ale, 210 km northwest of Kismayo. "He has between 500-600 militia supported by 31 technicals [battle wagons]," Hirale added.
However, a spokesman for the Puntland administration said Hirale's allegation was baseless. "We in Puntland have nothing to do with any attempt to destabilise any region of Somalia," the spokesman, Awad Ashara, told IRIN in Nairobi.
Regional analysts said the feared attack, if it occurred, could jeopardise the delicate talks in Nairobi, where a parliament created ahead of the expected establishment of a broad-based Somali government held its first meeting on Thursday. The meeting elected Hersi Bulhan Farah, 83, to serve as temporary chairman pending the election of a speaker.
The 275 members of the new interim parliament were chosen by elders and political leaders from their respective clans. It hopes to elect a new president for Somalia on 22 September.