Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ethiopian Troops Enter Somalia

Ethiopia sends troops into 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.

Peace talks

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.

Ethiopian troops

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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1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Ethiopian troops roll into central Somalia to protect US-backed government

July 20, 2006 - 11:18

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Ethiopian troops in armoured vehicles rolled into the central Somali town of Baidoa Thursday and set up a camp near the home of the interim president, residents said, less than a day after Islamic militants reached the outskirts of the base of a UN-backed, but largely powerless government.

A spokesman for the Ethiopian government had said that his country would protect Somalia's transitional government from attack by Islamic militias who control much of southern Somalia. Numerous witnesses told The Associated Press that Ethiopian soldiers arrived Thursday afternoon in Baidoa, 240 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu and about 150 kilometres east of the Ethiopian border.

The Ethiopians smiled and waved to residents as they drove into Baidoa. They kept off the streets after setting up a camp near the transitional president's home in Baidoa, residents said.

One resident, speaking on anonymity because of fears of reprisals, said people were being kept off the roads leading to the building.

Dozens of Ethiopian troops, including those in armoured vehicles, crossed into Somalia at the border town of Dolow on Thursday morning. Some drove on to Baidoa while others set up rear bases near settlements at the frontier, said Shukri Abdi-rahman, a Dolow resident.

Ethiopian's defence, foreign and information ministries spokesmen repeatedly denied Thursday that their troops had crossed into Somalia.

Ismail Hurreh, one of Somalia's several deputy prime ministers, dismissed reports that Ethiopian troops were deployed in Baidoa and refused further comment.

But late Wednesday, Ethiopia's Minister of Information Berhan Hailu told the AP that his government would intervene to prop up Somalia's transitional government, which has no effective military of its own and only controls the town of Baidoa.

"We have the responsibility to defend the border and the Somali government. We will crush them," Berhan said.

By moving troops into Mogadishu, Ethiopia could help create enough breathing space for peace talks planned Saturday to move forward. Or it could set the stage for a military confrontation between the better armed, better trained Ethiopians and the Islamic fighters.

Somalia invaded Ethiopia in 1978 in an attempt to grab land occupied by ethnic Somalis. Since then, Ethiopia has attempted to influence Somali politics to prevent another invasion. Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia in 1993 and 1996 to crush Islamic militants
attempting to establish a religious

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is allied with Ethiopia and has asked for its support.

Hundreds of Ethiopian troops have been spotted along the countries' border in recent weeks, which the Islamic militia has repeatedly denounced.

Militia loyal to Supreme Islamic Courts Union reached within 35 kilometres of Baidoa on Wednesday, prompting the government to go on high alert in anticipation of an attack. The militia was expected to pull back on Thursday, court officials said.

The Supreme Islamic Courts Council militia seized Mogadishu and most of the rest of southern Somalia last month and has shown signs of planning to install strict religious rule, sparking fears it was a Taliban-style regime. The U.S. has accused the militia of links to al-Qaida that include sheltering suspects in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.