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Archive for Monday, July 31, 2006

First commercial flight in decade departs

July 31, 2006

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— The first commercial flight in a decade departed Mogadishu's newly reopened international airport Sunday, demonstrating how Islamic militants have pacified the once-anarchic capital and much of southern Somalia.

Local airlines had been operating from private airstrips outside the capital.

Now, Islamic militiamen are guarding the airport for commercial passengers, said Sheik Muqtar Robow, deputy defense chief for the Islamic group.

"This is a historic flight for me," passenger Hawa Abdi Hussein said before boarding the Somalia-based Jubba Airways plane to the United Arab Emirates. "I think we at last gained peace and security."

The prime minister of Somalia's largely powerless government, meanwhile, survived a close no-confidence vote that exposed the divisions in his administration, which watched helplessly as the militants seized power.

The Islamic militia imposed strict religious courts after taking hold of the capital and surrounding areas last month, raising fears of a Taliban-style hard-line regime.

The United States accuses the group of harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for deadly bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

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