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Ahlu Sunnah Will Attend UN Meeting In Kenya
Group Calls For UN Not To Move To Mogadishu
Moderate Sufi Islamist movement Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) will attend a UN peace conference in Kenya, and has urged the transitional federal government to call off its boycott.

The TFG has refused to attend the conference, to be held in Nairobi mid-April, amid a spat with the international community over an extension of the mandate of Somalia's parliament and cabinet.

"We are attending the UN-sponsored conference to express our views as Ahlu Sunnah; it is an important opportunity for us as a group," ASWJ spokesman Mohamed Hussein, known as Owliy, told Somalia Report in the town of Guri-El. "The main issue to be discussed by the invited parties (Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland, Puntland, the TFG and Ahlu Sunnah) is the expiry of the transitional term and to share the views of the concerned parties."

ASWJ's militia is supporting the government in its battle to defeat militant Islamist group al-Shabaab, and has played an important role in taking key towns. However, Hussein is concerned about squabbles within the government.

"Surely, the government is split in two," he said. "I am hoping that the parliamentary speaker will attend the conference, but the other part of the government seems to be opposing the international community."

The TFG recently banned two senior UN human rights staff from working in Somalia, and Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo on Monday called on UN agencies in Nairobi to move to Mogadishu within 90 days. It is a demand nobody in the UN community is taking seriously, and Hussein said he was bemused by the announcement.

"I was surprised by the Prime Minister’s remarks ... on the UN to relocate to Mogadishu," he said. "It's impossible; their own security is at stake here, why would they call on the agencies to come Mogadishu?"

ASWJ is also critical of parliament's decision to extend its mandate, which had been due to expire in August, by three years, and the cabinet's subsequent decision to grant itself another year.

"It is ridiculous," Hussein said. "They don’t deserve a new term because they did nothing for their people and the world knows it."

Hussein also denied there were any internal disputes within AWSJ, saying it was a religious group not based on any clan structure.

The moderate Islamist group in early 2010 signed an agreement to back the TFG, although their relations since have been occasionally less than cordial. The Sufi group was shaken out of its peaceful slumber by a campaign of desecration of Sufi cemeteries and shrines undertaken by the hardline insurgents.