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Anti-government protesters march in Somali capital

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Somalia's culture war
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Demonstrators call for ouster of African peacekeepers
  • They include women in full hijabs brandishing assault rifles
  • Protest follows pro-government demonstration last week
  • Dozens of people have died in continuing clashes in recent weeks in the Somali capital
RELATED TOPICS
  • Somalia
  • Mogadishu
  • Africa

(CNN) -- Anti-government demonstrators, including women dressed in full hijabs brandishing AK-47 automatic rifles, marched through the streets of Somalia's violence-torn capital Monday.

The marchers shouted slogans and carried English-language signs accusing the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, a peacekeeping military force backing the government, of killing people.

"AMISOM killed my mummy" and "AMISOM get out of our country" said two of the signs against the African peacekeepers.

The protest followed a pro-government rally last Friday and recent clashes between hard-line Islamists and government forces that have killed dozens of people.

Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, and today, Islamic militant groups are waging war against the government in an effort to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed leads the weak U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government, or TFG, that is battling al Shabaab, a fundamentalist Islamic group aligned with al Qaeda.

Ahmed was once a senior moderate figure in the Union of Islamic Courts, an alliance that included al Shabaab and held power in Somalia for six months in 2006 before being overthrown by Ethiopian forces.

The Ethiopians remained until early 2009, when the TFG took tentative control, clinging to a small part of Mogadishu, the capital, and protected by African Union peacekeepers mainly from Uganda and Burundi.

Al Shabaab has reached out to Somalis living in the West, radicalizing young Muslims via the Internet and encouraging them to move back to the country to join the jihad. It controls much of central and southern Somalia and large parts of Mogadishu.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 200,000 Somalis have been forced to flee their homes this year, with most remaining within the country's borders because of heavily guarded checkpoints and difficulties in accessing transportation out.

CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

 
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