Thursday, July 20, 2006
Ethiopian Troops Enter Somalia
Thursday 20 July 2006 10:33 AM GMT
Ethiopian troops help protect the president
Ethiopia is tracking movements of Islamist militias in Somalia and has said it will "crush" any attack on the country's interim government.
Berhan Hailu, the Ethiopian minister of information, told Reuters in Addis Ababa: "We will use all means at our disposal to crush the Islamist group if they attempt to attack Baidoa, the seat of the transitional federal government."
Ethiopia was prompted to deploy its troops as Islamist militias moved towards Baidoa on Wednesday, causing fears of further conflict.
"Ethiopia is closely monitoring the jihadist Islamist group which has now returned to Mogadishu after a warning from Ethiopia not to attack Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government," Hailu said.
Ali Mohamed Gedi, the Somali prime minister, urged the Islamists on Wednesday to send their fighters back to Mogadishu and allow peace talks to go ahead at the weekend.
"I appeal to them to go back to Mogadishu, stop attacking other parts of Somalia and needlessly displacing civilians," he said.
The Islamist group's deputy defence chief was contradicted by a senior cleric from the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia in Mogadishu who said that there were no plans for the fighters to carry on to Baidoa.
Up to 2,000 Ethiopian troops crossed the border last week with several tanks to join about 2,000 soldiers already there, various sources have said.
Relations between the government and Islamists have been tense since the Islamic courts took control of Mogadishu last month, challenging the authority of the largely powerless government.
The two sides agreed a truce and mutual recognition deal in Sudan on June 22 – the government says the Islamists have broken the deal.
They were due to hold further Arab League-sponsored talks in Khartoum last weekend, but the government boycotted them. On Monday, officials changed their minds and the talks were rescheduled for this Saturday.
Somalia has been without effective central government since clan-based regional commanders overthrew the president, Mohamed Siad Barre, in 1991 and then turned on each other.
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