Somali Parliament Authorizes Declaration of Martial Law

Somali lawmakers voted Saturday to authorize the government to declare martial law, the deputy parliament speaker said, as the country's internationally recognized leaders struggle to assert their authority after battling an Islamic movement that had controlled much of southern Somalia.

Parliament's approval allows the government to impose martial law for a period of three months, starting at a time of its choosing, said Osman Ilmi Boqore, who made the announcement during a parliament session broadcast live on a government-owned radio station.

Boqore said 154 members of Somalia's transitional parliament voted by a show of hands in favor of a government motion to impose martial law in the country. He said two lawmakers voted against the motion.

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The session took place in the southern Somali town of Baidoa. The remainder of Somalia's 275 lawmakers were not present during the session and were either in the capital, Mogadishu, or in neighboring Kenya or elsewhere.

"After long debate on this issue, most of the MPs have voted in favor, so that law has been passed by parliament," Boqore told the lawmakers.

Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told The Associated Press that martial law will take effect once President Abdullahi Yusuf signs a decree to impose it. Dinari said he did not know when Yusuf would sign such a decree.

The motion includes a pledge to protect the rights of citizens during the three-month period.

The vote took place as government troops and allied Ethiopian soldiers began house to house searches for weapons near Mogadishu's main airport.

On Tuesday, Information Minister Ali Ahmed Jama tabled a motion to allow the government to impose martial law for three months, arguing that the measure was necessary because of the insecurity in the country.

Lawmakers opposed to the motion said too many people have arms in Somalia and it would be dangerous to impose martial law in such a situation.

In the latest unrest, more than eight people were killed late Friday and six others were injured when rival clan militias fought over pasture and water for their livestock in an area 90 miles northwest of Mogadishu, elders and residents said by telephone.

On Friday, Ethiopian-backed government forces captured the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic movement in Somalia, and warlords met with the president and promised to enlist their militiamen in the army.

As government forces seized the southern coastal hide-out — a suspected Al Qaeda training camp — after a five-day battle, Defense Minister Col. Barre "Hirale" Aden Shire said fighting was likely to continue as troops pursue fleeing Islamic militiamen into nearby forests.

The fall of Ras Kamboni, at the southern tip of Somalia and just three kilometers (two miles) from the Kenyan border, occurred as Yusuf met with clan warlords to discuss establishing enough security to allow international peacekeepers to deploy in Somalia — and to protect his government until it can establish an effective police force and army.

Yusuf's government has only been able to move into Mogadishu because Ethiopian troops two weeks ago routed an Islamic fundamentalist movement that had controlled most of southern Somalia for the past six months.

Yusuf must now deal with clan divisions that have spoiled the last 13 attempts to form an effective government since the last one collapsed in 1991. Besides clan divisions, remnants of the Islamic movement and resentment of Ethiopia's intervention also are likely to bedevil the government for some time to come.

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