Somalia Calls for Urgent International Help to Fight Terrorism

The shaky transitional government in Somalia — a possible target of the U.S. war on terrorism — has called for urgent international help in combatting terrorist activity.

In a report circulated Wednesday, the government said the United Nations has two choices: watch the country slide back into anarchy and chaos or lend active support to the government in its struggle against terrorism.

President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan's transitional government is Somalia's first central authority since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. In the following years, faction leaders fought with each other, turning the nation of 7 million into battling fiefdoms protected by heavily armed militias.

Abdiqasim and his government are struggling financially and have little influence outside the capital, and clan-based factions still rule much of the Horn of Africa nation.

Since the Sept. 11 U.S. terrorist attacks, there has been speculation that the impoverished, largely lawless Muslim country might be a target in the U.S. terrorism war. U.S. planes are conducting reconnaissance flights over Somalia and Western warships patrol the long Somali coast, checking whether Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network is trying to regroup there after being routed in Afghanistan.

Somalia's report was submitted to a U.N. Security Council committee monitoring implementation of a resolution adopted Sept. 28 requiring all 189 U.N. member states to stop financing, supporting and providing sanctuary to terrorists.

In the report, the government said it needs "urgent and adequate assistance from the international community" to help to promote peace, rebuild government facilities, and demobilize militias.

"Lack of security not only hampers the country's economic activities, but also creates opportunity (for) terrorists to exploit the absence of law and order to advance (their) goals," the report said.

The reports are to be reviewed by outside experts, but ultimately, the 15-member Security Council will decide how to respond and what follow-up will be necessary. A Western diplomat said Wednesday that Somalia's request for help would likely be looked at sympathetically.

To comply with the U.N. resolution, the Somali government said it had established an Anti-Terrorism Task Force chaired by the interior minister to monitor and identify terrorist activity, develop intelligence gathering networks in the country, work with international partners, and identify and register all foreigners.

The government also set up a commission headed by the attorney general to investigate the activities of al-Barakaat, a Somali-based financial network which operated in about 40 countries. The United States says Osama bin Laden used al-Bakarrat to funnel money to terrorists in his Al Qaeda network operating internationally, and its assets have been frozen.

The Somali government said it also banned demonstrations against bin Laden by small radical Islamic groups in Mogadishu and enlisted the mass media, Islamic scholars and others in a campaign to raise public awareness of the evils of terrorism.