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Somali Prime Minister Resigns Over Tussle With President

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke at U.N. conference in 2009. Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke announced his resignation Tuesday after months of disagreement with the president and stepped up attacks by insurgents.

Sharmarke, who became prime minister in February 2009, and President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed have lately locked horns over a new draft constitution. A vote of confidence on the premier had been scheduled over the weekend, though it was postponed, reported the Associated Press.

“After seeing that the political turmoil between me and the president has caused security vulnerability, I have decided to resign to save the nation and give a chance to others,” Sharmarke told reporters.

Ahmed thanked Sharmarke for his “courageous decision” and said he will build a new government soon.

Woman carrying child wounded by mortar fire in Somalia. Photo by Abdirashid Abdulle Abikar/AFP/Getty Images

Somalia’s latest political twist comes amid increased fighting between the transitional government and the Islamist extremist group al-Shabab and its allies. The country in Eastern Africa, which borders the Indian Ocean, is also a launch pad for pirate attacks of passing vessels.

GlobalPost’s Tristan McConnell reports on how the violence increased during the month-long Muslim holy month of Ramadan from August to early September. The most brazen assault was a raid on Mogadishu’s airport, which killed five people, he writes:

“Ultimately the airport assault was unsuccessful because all four attackers died before reaching the airport terminal building but it was ambitious in scope and technicality.”

The fighting during this period led to the most killings and injuries of civilians than at any other time in the recent past, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council:

“The drawing of the fighting into areas populated or frequented by civilians, and the use of imprecise mortars by all parties causing severe casualties and property damage continued to be a matter of serious concern.”

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants control most of southern and central Somalia, while the government only controls parts of the capital Mogadishu. About 6,300 African Union peacekeepers, known as AMISOM, from Uganda and Burundi are stationed in Somalia.

The country has been gripped by conflict ever since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Reuters traces political developments and incidents of violence over the past five years in this timeline.

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