Kenya hands 34 Islamic militiamen to Somalis

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Kenya handed over 34 Islamic militiamen to Somalia’s transitional government, the Somali government spokesman said Sunday, adding that some of them may be senior leaders of the country’s Islamic movement.

Kenya flew the militiamen to Somalia under armed guard on Saturday, the same day Somalia’s fledgeling government received a boost when the last major warlord turned over his weapons and militia.

Kenyan border patrols arrested the men in the past few weeks after Somalia’s western neighbor closed its border, said Abdirahman Dinari, the government spokesman. He said that the government is investigating the identities of the men and will soon make the details public.

The transitional government, however, is faced a renewed threat from Islamic militants, who took credit for a string of recent guerrilla attacks and promised to continue fighting until the government agrees to talks.

The internationally recognized government – with key military backing from Ethiopia – had managed to drive the Islamic movement out of Mogadishu and much of the rest of southern Somalia. But Islamic leaders have repeatedly threatened a guerrilla war as long as Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia to support the government.

The United States and the European Union have called on the government to hold broad-based peace talks to promote reconciliation, but so far only clan leaders and warlords have been involved, while religious leaders have been excluded.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991. The transitional federal government is the 14th attempt to restore law and order since warlords divided the country into warring fiefdoms.

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