President: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
A moderate Islamist and former rebel, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected president of Somalia's fragile transitional government in January 2009.
Sheikh Sharif has promised to bring peace and unity to SomaliaHis UN-backed government controls no more than a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu, with the help of African Union troops.
Much of the rest of the country is held by insurgent groups, dominated by Al-Shabab, which wants to impose a strict version of Islamic law throughout Somalia. Al-Shabab means ''youth'' in Arabic.
Mr Ahmed was elected by parliament, which was sitting in neighbouring Djibouti to avoid the violence back home. He replaced President Abdullahi Yusuf, who had stepped down a month earlier.
At his swearing-in, Mr Ahmed promised to bring peace and unity to Somalia, and to work with anyone sharing the same aim.
Only days earlier, Ethiopian troops had completed their pullout from Somalia.
Mr Ahmed was chairman of the Islamic Courts' Union (ICU) that wrested control of Mogadishu from its feuding warlords in 2006, before the Ethiopian army invaded to remove it of from power.
After the Ethiopian incursion, he escaped to Kenya, before joining the insurgent Islamist-led Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).
He later broke with the hardline ARS leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, to set up a moderate breakaway faction based in Djibouti.
Mr Ahmed, in his 40s at the time of his election, studied in Libya and Sudan, before becoming a secondary school teacher in Mogadishu, where he joined the ICU. He is a member of the Abgaal clan.
His predecessor, Abdullahi Yusuf, resigned after parliament sided with Prime Minister Nur Hassan, whom he had tried to sack over a dispute about how to deal with rebel Islamist militants in control of much of southern Somalia.
Mr Yusuf - an ally of Ethiopia and a foe of the Islamists - had been chosen as president by the transitional parliament set up in 2004 after years of peace talks.
Once seen as a potential strongman, Mr Yusuf and his reliance on Ethiopian military assistance became deeply unpopular with many Somalis and undermined efforts to impose the transitional government's authority on the country as a whole.
Sheikh Sharif has promised to bring peace and unity to Somalia