LONDON (AP) — Somalia's president opened an international conference Tuesday by asking donors to provide "considerable investment and support" for his beleaguered government in the coming years.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and British Prime Minister David Cameron were co-hosting the conference in London that aimed to bolster Mohamud's government in Mogadishu.
"There is a huge amount at stake right now," Mohamud told the delegates. "The future of our country, the security of the region, and the wider world, and the removal of the piracy stranglehold on the Gulf of Aden."
Somalia was expected to detail its plans to develop the country's security forces, justice sector and financial management systems in hopes of getting more international aid.
Delegates included a number of African heads of state and representatives from the IMF and the World Bank. Human Rights Watch has urged those attending to make accountability and women's rights a priority for the Somali government.
The conference came under harsh criticism from Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliate active in Somalia that seeks to overthrow the Mogadishu-based government and install an Islamic one.
Al-Shabab, which counts several hundred foreign fighters among its ranks, controlled Mogadishu from roughly 2006 to 2011 until African Union troops forced it out of the capital. The group still controls wide swaths of south-central Somalia.
Al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr released an audiotape over the weekend in which he called Tuesday's meeting a plot to "plunder" Somalia's mineral wealth "under the guise of international trade relations and fighting corruption." He said the international community wanted to discard Islamic law in Somalia and replace it with Western laws and constitutions.
Zubeyr also urged his followers to increase suicide attacks to "permanently cripple" the Mogadishu-based government. The next day a suicide car bomb attack in the Somali capital killed at least seven people.
Zubeyr blamed the regional tensions over land and ethnicity on the Britain's colonial-era partitioning of Somalia between Kenya and Ethiopia.
Mohamud, the president, was inaugurated in September at the end of the eight-year U.N.-backed transitional government.
Jason Straziuso in Kenya contributed to this report.