MOGADISHU (AFP) — The Islamist administration of Somalia's southern port of Kismayo on Saturday renamed the airport after a 16th century warrior and invited airlines to use it instead of Mogadishu's airport.
"We announce today that the airport in Kismayo is ready to serve the people and we call on airlines to use it," spokesman Sheikh Hasan Yaqub said.
"The airport is named after the former Somali holy war leader Imam Ahmed Gurey and we have told commercial airlines to use it," said Sheikh Ahmed Haydar, another Kismayo official.
Gurey is a mythical figure in Somalia. A fervent proponent of Muslim expansionism, Gurey embarked on a conquest of Abyssinia which brought three-quarters of modern-day Ethiopia under control.
A joint push by the hardline Shebab movement and forces loyal to southern rebel leader Hassan Turki, who is listed as a terrorist financier by Washington, brought Kismayo back under Islamist control in August.
Kismayo is a key trading gateway for Somalia and the Shebab dealt a further blow to the country's western-backed transitional government last month by declaring an embargo on Mogadishu international airport.
Commercial flights have stopped landing there and attempts by African peacekeepers to continue using the facility have triggered deadly exchanges of mortar fire in the capital.
Somalia's Islamists are beginning to re-impose a tough form of Sharia law in the areas they control, two years after being ousted from power by Ethiopian troops.
Kismayo airport was closed less than a week after the Islamists recaptured the town when they shot at a small plane attempting to land.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »