Somalia's president asked the United Nations on Wednesday to lift the arms embargo against his country, saying the recent merger between al-Qaida and al-Shabab has made the dropping of the arms ban necessary.
Thousands of Somalis marched through the capital during an anti-militant protest attended by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Many of the demonstrators were shouting and angry as they protested the al-Qaida merger.
One protester's poster read: "Let us be united to fight our enemy al-Qaida."
The Somali militant group al-Shabab has long had close links with al-Qaida, but the two announced an official merger last week.
"To say the arms embargo cannot be lifted now is unfair," Ahmed said. "Our army is working under difficult conditions because of economic problems and a lack of arms."
The U.N. imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992, one year after warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The warlords then turned on each other, sinking the poverty-stricken nation of 7 million people into chaos.
Ahmed's call for the lifting of the arms embargo comes one week before a high-level meeting on Somalia to be attended by world leaders in London. Currently the Somali army is armed by international donors.