Islamic Courts 'preparing to fight'


Junior Member

A senior leader in Somalia's Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and one of the United States' most wanted men appears to be running a military training camp on the Kenyan-Somali border.

Hassan Turki has evaded capture by Somalia's transitional government since the Islamic Courts were forced from power by Somali and Ethiopian troops early this year.

Al Jazeera's cameras gained exclusive access to Turki's camp, where he says fighters are being trained to join the increasing fighting in the capital Mogadishu.

"We are at war. The south is the centre of the battleground where fighters are trained and equipped for battle," he said.

"We plan our operations from here to continue our fight against the occupiers."

Thousands of Ethiopian soldiers have been based in Somalia since the war with the Islamic Courts. Along with their Somali allies they have been under nearly daily attack for much of the year.

Al Jazeera was shown fighters shooting at targets labelled with the names "Bush", "Zenawi", and "Gedi"; referring to the US president president, the Ethiopian prime minister, and his counterpart in Somalia's interim government.

The men were also shown shooting rocket-propelled grenades, practising on mortar launchers and apparently engaged in explosives training.

US embassy bombings

Turki, also known as Sheikh Hassan, is accused of involvement in the co-ordinated bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam in 1998that resulted in the deaths of 257 people and injured more than 5,000 others.

However, Turki, who is also wanted by the Kenyan government, has denied having any part in the attacks.

"These are malicious allegations. I was not part of any of these plots," he told Al Jazeera in a rare exclusive interview.

"There are tensions with Kenya because the existing regime is an agent of the US. We advise the Kenyans to change this regime in the next elections," he said.

Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president who is seeking re-election in December, angered the Islamic Courts when the country's security forces blocked the border and detained some of the group's fighters as they retreated in January.