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Amid Chaos, Somalia's President Steps Down

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf stepped down Monday, dissolving his U.N.-backed government because he said he had lost control amid a growing Islamic insurgency that has left the country in chaos.

Yusuf announced his resignation to parliament in Baidoa, one of the only Somali towns controlled by the weak government, which has been sidelined by the growing influence of the insurgents.

"Most of the country is not in our hands," Yusuf said. "After seeing all these things, I have finally quit."

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Yusuf had become increasingly unpopular at home and abroad, and was blamed by Washington, Europe and African neighbors for stalling a U.N.-hosted peace process. He had come under intense pressure to step aside.

Yusuf's administration failed to bring security to the war-ravaged nation and now controls only Baidoa and pockets of the capital, Mogadishu. Islamists control most of the south and have nearly surrounded Mogadishu, while feuding warlords control much of the rest of the country.

Thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed in the fighting, and the instability has fueled a wave of piracy off the Somali coast, where foreign navies have rushed to protect shipping lanes.

Ethiopia also plans to withdraw its troops by the end of December after a two-year deployment to prop up the government. The pull-out leaves the government even more vulnerable to the insurgents.

In Yusuf's address, he said the nation had been "paralyzed" by the fighting.

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The parliament speaker, Sheikh Aden Madobe, will stand in as acting president until Somalia can hold elections. Madobe told reporters in Baidoa that he would remain until a new president was elected and said the government would have talks with "any opposition group."

The most aggressive Islamic insurgency group, al-Shabab, has made dramatic territory gains in the past few months. The United States accuses al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

In a statement Monday, al-Shabab said Yusuf was resigning "with shame."

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on one another. The current transitional government — formed with U.N. help in 2004 — has struggled to assert any real control over the country as it grapples with constant attacks in the capital.

From wire reports

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