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Leading opposition figure returns to Somalia

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Somalia's leading opposition figure returned to Mogadishu Thursday and called for unity among the various Islamist factions, a move that could bolster reconciliation efforts in the wartorn country.

Sheikh Hassan Aweys, who is on the US list of terrorism suspects for alleged links to Al Qaeda, came back to Somalia after more than two years in exile in Eritrea. Members of his alliance said he would promote reconciliation, but Mr. Aweys said that cannot happen until African Union troops leave Somalia.

Aweys is the former legislative head of the Islamic Courts Union, a movement that ended Somalia's longstanding civil war and came to power in 2007. But it was ousted in a US-backed Ethiopian invasion by the end of that year and subsequently split into two factions. Aweys's faction, the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS-Eritrea), is part of the Islamic Party, which opposes the government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Aweys had backed Islamic insurgents fighting the government, reports the Associated Press.

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