From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Dec 20 2008 - 11:32:34 EST
Ethiopia readies to pull troops from Somalia
ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - Ethiopia said on Saturday it has begun preparations to
withdraw troops from Somalia, with the planned pullout raising fears of
further chaos in the conflict-torn country.
Addis Ababa is to pull its forces out of Somalia, where it deployed in 2006
to back an embattled government, by the end of the year.
"This week, Ethiopian troops have begun to make preparations for their
withdrawal. This has not, however, prevented continuing clashes with
Al-Shabaab forces," a foreign ministry statement said, referring to an
Islamist movement that has taken control of much of the country.
The Ethiopian withdrawal has sparked fears of a security vacuum in Somalia,
where battles have raged between Ethiopian forces and Islamist fighters for
the last two years.
Under a UN-sponsored agreement signed in Djibouti, the AU mission in Somalia
is to take over security responsibilities while joint units involving the
government and the opposition prepare to become operational.
But Ethiopia said plans for the AU mission, known as AMISOM, remained
"Currently, considerable confusion remains over the intentions of the AMISOM
(AU mission in Somalia) troop contributing countries," the foreign ministry
said in a statement.
The AU force, expected to eventually number 8,000, currently comprises 3,400
soldiers from Uganda and Burundi, who are expected to send additional
troops, according to the statement.
"It should, of course, be underlined again that the withdrawal of Ethiopian
troops will be carried out without fail by the end of December," it added.
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