[dehai-news] (AP) Official: Ethiopia will leave Somalia this month


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Tue Dec 30 2008 - 09:12:14 EST


Official: Ethiopia will leave Somalia this month

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN 1 hour ago, Dec 30, 2008

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) Ethiopian troops who are propping up Somalia's
government will leave the country within days despite the turmoil caused by
the Somali president's resignation, an official said Tuesday.

Wahide Belay, a spokesman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said he did not
want to discuss a specific date for the departure, which many fear will
create a power vacuum and allow Islamist insurgents to take over Somalia.

"We are leaving at the end of December," Wahide said. "Give or take a couple
of days." The plan to pull the troops from Somalia had been announced
earlier. Belay's statement was confirmation that the withdrawal will proceed
in spite of the fresh political uncertainty.

Somalia's president, Abdullahi Yusuf, resigned Monday. During his four-year
term, his Western-backed government failed to extend its power throughout
the country, which is crippled by infighting and a strengthening Islamist
insurgency.

Yusuf's resignation could usher in more chaos as Islamic militants scramble
for power. The government controls only pockets of Mogadishu, the capital,
and Baidoa, the seat of Parliament.

For two decades, Somalia has been beset by anarchy, violence and an
insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and sent hundreds of
thousands fleeing for their lives. Some of the insurgents are alleged to
have ties with al-Qaida.

"Most of the country is not in our hands," Yusuf told Parliament Monday.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department supported Yusuf's decision to
resign and praised his efforts to bring stability to Somalia. The statement
by Gordon Duguid, a department spokesman, urged officials in Somalia "to
intensify efforts to achieve a government of national unity and to enhance
security through formation of a joint security force."

The last time Yusuf lost his grip on the nation to the insurgents, in 2006,
he called in troops from neighboring Ethiopia to prop up his administration.
The call backfired many Somalis saw the Ethiopians as "occupiers" and
accused them of brutality.

The insurgents have used the Ethiopian presence to gain recruits even as the
Islamists' strict form of Islam has terrified many Somalis.

Parliament must elect a new president within 30 days; in the meantime, the
Parliament speaker will serve as acting president. Many believe Yusuf's
absence will allow moderate Islamist leaders into the government.

The most aggressive Islamic insurgency group, al-Shabab, has taken control
of vast amounts of new territory in recent months. The United States accuses
al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who blew up the U.S.
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Many of the insurgency's senior
figures are Islamic radicals; some are on the State Department's list of
wanted terrorists.

Thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed by mortar shells,
machine-gun crossfire and grenades in fighting in this arid country. The
United Nations says Somalia has 300,000 acutely malnourished children, but
attacks and kidnappings of aid workers have shut down many humanitarian
projects.

Rights groups have accused all sides in the conflict Islamic insurgents,
the government and Ethiopian troops of committing war crimes and other
serious abuses.

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