Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ethiopia Redeploys Troops in Somalia, Witnesses Say

Ethiopia Redeploys Troops In Somalia -Witnesses

12-9-08 12:14 PM EST

(AFP)--Ethiopia sent troops across the border into Somalia on Tuesday and reoccupied former military positions in Mogadishu, raising questions about its withdrawal plans, witnesses told AFP.

Addis Ababa didn't comment on the troop movements, which some residents saw as negating Ethiopia's pledge to pull out its troops by the end of the year, while others interpreted it as a tactical move to ensure a smooth withdrawal.

"The Ethiopians deployed a battalion of their troops in Somalia's border town of Kalabeyr in the central Hiran region," Abdi Moalin Farah, a resident in the nearby town of Beledweyn, told AFP, adding the troops had left their positions there only two weeks earlier.

Other witnesses in the region confirmed the redeployment.

In the capital Mogadishu, Ethiopian troops reoccupied part of the northern district of Yaqshiid, residents said.

"Three areas which were vacated by Ethiopian troops five days ago were reoccupied," Abdullahe Mohamud, a local businessman, told AFP.

Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry announced late last month it would pull its troops out of Somalia by year's end, wrapping up its ill-fated two-year occupation of the conflict-ridden country. But the surprise announcement of a hasty withdrawal wreaked panic within the African Union, whose under-equipped peacekeepers are meant to take over security duties but need more time to prepare.

Ethiopia subsequently said it could delay its pullout "by a few days" in order not to expose AU forces to an onslaught by the Shebab, the Islamist insurgents who control large parts of Somalia and have been closing in on Mogadishu in recent weeks.

Dow Jones Newswires

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