updated 10/8/2006 10:59:47 AM ET 2006-10-08T14:59:47

A militia faction that controlled Somalia’s port of Kismayo until it was seized by Islamists last month vowed on Sunday to recapture the city, encouraged by a series of protests against the new leadership.

Abdullahi Ismail, the new commander of the Juba Valley Alliance, an independent authority which controlled Kismayo before the Islamists took it over on Sept. 25, said the protests that have rocked the town showed the Islamists were not wanted.

“We are going to soon recapture Kismayo,” Ismail told Mogadishu’s Simba FM radio station, adding that his forces would first target the smaller town of Buale, also controlled by the Islamists near Kismayo. Residents there said the town was tense.

The Islamists have rapidly expanded their grip in Somalia since they captured the capital Mogadishu in June, leaving the interim government increasingly isolated in the small southern provincial town of Baidoa.

But their capture last month of Kismayo, Somalia’s third largest city, has been met with protests. The latest on Friday ended with the arrest of 100 people after Islamist forces shot in the air.

The protesters said they were against a new administration set up by the Islamists, which they said had no fair representation of various clans.

Demonstrators have also protested against the Islamists’ ban on cinema and the popular leafy stimulant khat, usually traded by women and mostly chewed by men in Somalia.

“The Islamists said that Kismayo residents had invited them,” Ismail said. “If that is the case, why are people protesting every night?”

There was no immediate comment from the Islamists, but they have in the past described organizers of the protests as political trouble-makers.

Ismail is an ally of Colonel Abdikadir Adan Shire, also known as Barre Hiraale, now the defense minister in Somalia’s fragile interim government.

He said Hiraale, who was the leader of the Juba Valley Alliance until a split in the group when some fighters gave up weapons to the Islamists, backed the Kismayo recapture plan.

Somalis flee
Fears of renewed fighting around Kismayo has forced more than 2,000 Somalis to flee across the border to Kenya over the last few days, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

Some 30,000 people from Somalia have sought refuge in Kenya since the beginning of the year. The U.N. agency said their continued arrival could soon overwhelm refugee camps.

The interim government, the 14th attempt at central rule since the 1991 ouster of a dictator, regards Kismayo’s capture as breach of a cease-fire reached at peace talks in Sudan.

The leader of the Islamists, Sheik Sharif Ahmed, returned to Mogadishu from a trip to Dubai and met the Italian envoy for Somalia Mario Raffaelli on Sunday to discuss the next peace meeting with the government in Khartoum due on October 30.

Ahmed, who said he had also met parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan in Dubai, said his movement had explained to the envoy the reasons behind its opposition to the deployment of peacekeepers into Somalia which the interim government wants.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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