BELEDWEYN, Somalia – Hundreds of Shebab supporters vowed Wednesday in the central Somali town of Beledweyn to intensify the Al Qaeda-inspired group's jihad against African Union troops.
The demonstration was the Islamist insurgent group's reply to a pledge made Monday at a summit of regional states for 2,000 more troops to beef up the beleaguered African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
"The enemies of Allah met in Ethiopia days ago and agreed to fight against the Holy Koran of Allah," Sheikh Yusuf Said Ugas, Shebab leader for Somalia's Hiran region, told the crowd.
"Now we are meeting to unite and fight against them. We will fight to death, until we raise the Islamic flag over this country and establish the greater Islamic state," he said.
The six-member Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) announced Monday in Addis Ababa it had decided to rapidly deploy the 2,000 extra troops still needed for AMISOM to reach its intended strength of 8,100.
"Fresh recruitment has already started across the entire country for a united jihad against the enemy, whose aim is to destroy our religion and integrity," the Shebab cleric said.
"I call upon all of you, men and women, to stand up and defend your religion, defend your country against the invading infidels and their apostate allies," he added.
Since its first Ugandan contingent was deployed in early 2007, AMISOM -- and the Western-backed transitional federal government it is protecting -- has failed to contain the Shebab-led insurgency.
In recent days, Islamist rebels have closed in on the small perimetre of Mogadishu housing the presidency and the other institutions of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's fragile administration.
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