January 31, 2009 / 1:28 AM / 11 years ago

FACTBOX-Facts about Somali Islamist leader

(Reuters) - Somalia’s moderate Islamist opposition leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed won the national presidency during a parliamentary session in the early hours of Saturday.

Here are facts about the Horn of Africa country’s likely new president.

* In his mid-40s, the scholarly and softly-spoken Ahmed was chairman of the Islamic Courts Union that drove warlords from Mogadishu and ran the capital for six months in 2006 before Ethiopian troops ousted them.

* He studied in Libya and Sudan before becoming a geography teacher in a Mogadishu secondary school. He has said it was the kidnapping of a young student for ransom that drove him to set up an Islamic sharia court to rid the capital of banditry.

* Ahmed was seen as a moderate in the Islamic Courts Union. He fled to Kenya, was briefly arrested, and then became part of the Islamist opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) in Eritrea.

* He split with the hard-line Islamist leader of the ARS, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, moved to neighbouring Djibouti to take part in the reconciliation process and joined an enlarged parliament with 200 ARS members this week.

* Ahmed said in an interview in 2006 he led a simple life and did not own a computer or satellite phone. He told Reuters this week he wanted to forge peace with Ethiopia, revive the country’s social services and reach out to Islamist insurgents still fighting in the country.

* Ahmed has met U.S. officials in the past and is seen as an acceptable president to the West, although hard-line Islamists say he has sold out. His first challenge would be to bring them into a reconciliation process.

Reporting by David Clarke; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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