MOGADISHU, Somalia — A former warlord who for a time had been on the CIA payroll was sworn in Friday as mayor of Mogadishu and announced a plan to pacify this turbulent African capital within three months by requiring residents to turn in their guns.
"Weapons will be in the hands of the government and no one else," Mohamed Dheere told a crowd at his inauguration.
But previous regimes have failed to disarm Mogadishu — the most dangerous city in Africa, where many families maintain AK-47s and other weapons for protection — and Dheere offered few details of his security plan.
Dheere's appointment as mayor, which was announced by the interim prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, follows the installation of another former warlord, Abdi Hasan "Qaybdid" Awale, as the national police chief. According to U.S. officials, both were briefly on the CIA payroll in 2006 under a covert program to fight the rise of the Islamists, a plan that fell apart when the Islamists drove the warlords from power last June.
Awale is a former police chief and later served as a top aide to Mohammad Farah Aideed, the late militia leader whose forces killed 18 American servicemen in the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident in Mogadishu in March 1993.
Dheere was the ruler of Jowhar, a quiet trading center north of Mogadishu, where he presided over a famously ruthless extortion network. Taking office Friday, he asked Somalis to forgive him for his past misdeeds.
The battered seaside capital is still reeling from two weeks of intense fighting last month between insurgent groups and Somali and Ethiopian military forces, which left an estimated 1,000 civilians dead. The insurgents, thought to be a mixture of anti-government militants and the remnants of a radical Islamist regime that Ethiopia toppled in December, have mounted a steady assault on the Ethiopians for months.
Some 365,000 people have fled Mogadishu since February. The city has been calm over the past week, but the United Nations reported Friday that only about 800 residents had returned home.
"The appointment of these new leaders is not to go easy on the people of Mogadishu, but to face the hard task of ensuring and securing a peaceful environment," said Gedi, the U.S.-backed prime minister.
Some analysts speculated that the appointments would appease members of Mogadishu's dominant Hawiye clan, which has felt locked out of power. Dheere and Awale represent each of the leading Hawiye sub-clans, while the top positions in the government are held by members of the rival Darod clan.
"Part of it is reaching out to the Hawiye clan to create that balance to make things more inclusive, so they can see themselves within the picture of the government," said Omar Jamal, an expert who runs the Somali Justice and Advocacy Center in Minneapolis.
But the elevation of two former warlords figured to anger supporters of the Islamist regime, who are said to number in the thousands. Despite entreaties from the United States and others, the government has refused to allow moderate Islamists into its fold.
Some residents were also skeptical that men who'd ruled by violence for so long could bring peace.
"All these men are warlords," said Mohammed Hussein Ali, a Mogadishu businessman. "As long as they are members of government with power, it's just the same situation as in the past. They still have weapons and militias to take advantage of anything they want."
(McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this report. Bengali reported from Washington.)