President of Somalia Resigns as Rebels Battle

Islamist groups turn on one another in political vacuum
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2008 7:13 AM CST
Al-Shabab insurgents seen with arms, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday Dec. 27, 2008. Clashes between two rival Islamist militias in a central Somali town have killed at least ten people Saturday.   (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
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(Newser) – Somalia's warlord-turned-president resigned today, reports the New York Times, as militant Islamists continued their gradual takeover of the country. The departure of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed prefigures more woe for the deeply troubled nation, but it could also provide an opportunity. His resignation may let moderate Islamists come into the government, paving the way for a rebuilt political class and a modicum of peace.

Although Yusuf was the internationally recognized head of Somalia, his power was extremely limited; the transitional government only controls a few city blocks in a country the size of Texas. Various Islamist groups, including the highly militant Shabab, are now struggling for power and turning on each other. Some Islamist leaders may run when the Somali parliament elects a new president in January.