by Abdurrahman Warsameh
MOGADISHU, April 17 (Xinhua) -- The recent killing of a Somali lawmaker and a senior Islamist commander allied with the government in the capital Mogadishu has ignited a propaganda war between pro-government moderate Islamists and radical groups, which, analysts say, could be a prelude to a major inter-Islamist conflict.
Somali National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden said on Friday he received intelligence reports that nearly 100 young men armed with pistols from the southern regions were deployed in Mogadishu "along with others already operating" in the city to carry out assassinations of parliamentarians and other officials of the government.
"As the (National Security) ministry was informing the lawmakers, one of them was killed and another official and his bodyguard were also killed," Aden told a press conference in Mogadishu.
Although the minister did not explicitly said who the alleged hit men were, it was apparent that he was referring to the radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which was blamed for the recent killings, political analyst Harun Bile said.
"It seems the tit for tat has begun between the radical group of Al-Shabaab and the pro-government Islamists who have been until now refrained from any direct conflict with their comrades-in-arms, but now such an eventuality is inevitable," Bile told Xinhua in Mogadishu.
Shiekh Muqtar Robow Abu Mansuur, spokesman for Al-Shabaab Islamist movement which is opposed to the current government dominated by the moderate Islamists, denied any involvement in the assassination of the two Islamist officials and accused what he described as misguided Islamists of attacking Al-Shabaab positions in Mogadishu.
"They have attacked our positions and we repulsed them, capturing two battle wagons and two misguided holy warriors whom we have treated well and will be released in due course," Robow said in a phone news conference on Thursday night.
Robow said his group will continue fighting with government forces and what he termed as the occupying troops from Uganda and Burundi, the only two African countries that contribute forces to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), whose soldiers now number nearly 4,000, half of the UN-authorized 8,000-strong AU peacekeeping force for Somalia.
For his part, Abdurahim Isse Adow, spokesman for the pro-government Islamist group, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which is the armed wing of the political organization, the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) led by current Islamist President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, said his fighters would exercise its right of self-defense and would not tolerate any more provocations from Al-Shabaab.
Adow accused the group of being behind the killing of several "resistant fighters." He also linked the group to last month's failed attempt to assassinate Interior Minister Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, a close ally of the president and former Islamist fighter himself.
"What you see and hear is or could be a prelude of a start of a major inter-Islamist fighting which could, in a sense, be more dangerous for locals in the capital, the battle ground for the new phase of the Somali civil conflict," warns Yunis Dahir, a political science professor in Mogadishu.