Islamic courts set up consultative council

The Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) which controls Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, has set up a consultative council which will act as the advisory body of the Islamic group, an official said on Monday.

The UIC leadership also appointed controversial cleric, Shaykh Hassan Dahir Aweys, to head the council. "We have set up a shura (council) as an advisory body to enable us to streamline our work," said Shaykh Abdulakdir Ali, vice-chairman of the UIC. He added that Shaykh Hassan Dahir Aweys had been appointed chairman of the council, while dismissing allegations that Aweys was a hardliner.

"This is cheap propaganda pedalled by our enemies and intended to solicit monetary and political support from the west. The world will see through our deeds that all this propaganda is baseless," he added. Shaykh Aweys is suspected by Washington of having links with the extremist organisation Al-Qaeda.

The council will enable UIC to speak with one voice, Shaykh Ali said. "There won't be contradictory statements coming out of the UIC," he claimed, adding that the council would have 90 members when fully constituted. Day-to-day affairs of the UIC would continue to handled by the executive team, led by Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed, its chairman.

Shaykh Ali said that the creation of the council was the first step towards bringing order and stability to Mogadishu. "In the near future we expect to have a council that will have representatives from all sectors of society in Mogadishu," he added.

The Islamic courts militia has seized control of much of southern Somalia, including the capital since 4 June, when they drove out a group of faction leaders who had controlled Mogadishu since 1991 following the fall of the Muhammad Siyad Barre administration. The UIC has vowed to restore order in Somalia and has started creating Islamic courts in the areas it controls.