Somalia's government urges Islamic forces to surrender

Somalia's government, fortified by Ethiopian troops, called on a rival Islamic movement to surrender on Tuesday and promised them amnesty after their attempt to take control of the country, a spokesman said.

Government and Ethiopian troops will not persecute Islamists for their beliefs, if they lay down their weapons and stop opposing the internationally-backed government, said Abdirahman Dinari, the government spokesman.

Islamic fighters were in a tactical retreat Tuesday, said Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, leader of the Council of Islamic Courts' executive body. Government and Ethiopian troops advanced on three fronts in a decisive turn around in the battle for control of Somalia, the AP said.

But Ahmed rejected any suggestion of resuming peace talks and appeared unbowed by his group's losses.