[dehai-news] (AP) Witnesses: Ethiopians troops pouring into Somalia


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 10:40:32 EST


Witnesses: Ethiopians troops pouring into Somalia

By MOHAMED SHEIKH NOR Dec 9, 2008

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) Ethiopian troops are pouring into neighboring
Somalia to fight radical Islamists who have taken over much of the country,
raising fears of more violence in a country fighting a deadly insurgency and
piracy, witnesses and the Somali government said Tuesday.

The Ethiopians' advance comes just weeks before they are scheduled to
withdraw after an unpopular, two-year presence here. The Ethiopians are
integral to protecting the Western-backed government, and their planned
withdrawal at the end of the month will likely herald the administration's
collapse.

Dahir Dhere, a Somali military spokesman, said the Ethiopians are "helping
the Somali people and they will get rid of al-Shabab," referring to the
extremist Islamic group that is advancing steadily toward the capital,
Mogadishu.

The phone of Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Wahde Belay rang
unanswered.

Somalia has been in chaos for nearly two decades, and the country's
Western-backed transitional government has failed to assert any real control
since it was formed in 2004. Ethiopia the region's military powerhouse
sent thousands of troops here in late 2006 to help oust the Islamic
extremists, who soon launched an Iraq-style insurgency.

The Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies have come under near-daily
attack from the militants.

The Associated Press interviewed nearly a dozen residents of towns near the
Somali-Ethiopian border, who say troops from Ethiopia have been streaming
into the country in recent days.

In Balan Bal, another town on the countries' border, hundreds of Ethiopian
troops riding 14 military vehicles entered the city Monday, said resident
Ahmed Sheik Roble.

"The Ethiopian troops took positions at a former military base and a police
station," he said. "Some of the troops started to dig trenches while others
started to patrol the city."

The United States fears that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground,
and accuses al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who
allegedly blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Ethiopia recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this
month, leaving Somalia's government vulnerable to insurgents, who have
captured most of southern Somalia and even move freely in the capital.

The Shabab declared an Islamic state in a region of southern Somalia on
Sunday, establishing posts including a governor, security official and chief
judge, according to the U.S-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors
extremist sites. The declaration is the latest sign of the Shabab's steady
advance.

*Associated Press Writer Mohamed Olad Hassan contributed to this report.*

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