From the Media Capital, to the Global Ethiopian Community
Wednesday August 23rd 2017

Ethiopian Government Denies Plans to Intervene in Somalia `At This Point’

Al-Shabaab forces patrol in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighbourhood before an offensive on Monday which left at least 12 dead. Photograph: AFP/Getty

By William Davison, Bloomberg: Ethiopia denied reports it is planning to send troops into war-torn Somalia, where an al-Qaeda militia began a new offensive this week against the country’s Western-backed government.

“We have made no decision to intervene at this point,” Communications Minister Bereket Simon said in a mobile phone interview from the capital, Addis Ababa.

AddisNeger Online reported earlier today that about 1,000 Ethiopian soldiers crossed into Somalia and were heading toward the towns of Beledehawa and Elwak on the Kenya-Somalia border. About 6,000 forces have been stationed at Dolo near the Kenya- Somalia-Ethiopia border for the past three weeks, it said.

At least 70 civilian died and 200 have been injured in Mogadishu since the al-Shabaab militia, which the U.S. accuses of having links with al-Qaeda, began a new offensive on Aug. 23 to oust the government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Somalia’s government said today it expects a “major” surge in violence in Mogadishu as al-Shabaab steps up its campaign over the Ramadan period.

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, began on Aug. 10 and will end around Sept. 9.

AddisNeger said the Ethiopian soldiers want to divert al- Shabaab attention away from Mogadishu amid plans by the Islamist rebels to take control of the city in the coming two days.

‘Permanent Deployment’

“Dolo is an Ethiopian town,” Bereket said. “Nobody can question the right of the government to move troops within its own territory. The deployment is permanent.”

Somalia’s government has been battling the insurgents since 2007. Most of southern and central Somalia has been seized by the rebels, while Sheikh Sharif’s administration controls only portions of Mogadishu. The country is host to more than 2,000 foreign fighters, from India, Pakistan and elsewhere, who are providing funds and training for terrorist operations, according to the AU.

U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in 2006 to oust an administration headed by the Islamic Courts Union. They withdrew in January 2009 after becoming bogged down in a guerrilla war with the Islamist militias.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned in June 2009 that his country may reinvade Somalia should the Islamist rebels oust the government and threaten Ethiopia’s security. Meles repeated the threat earlier this month, Agence France-Presse reported on Aug. 11.

Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The Horn of Africa nation is one of the poorest in the world, according to the World Bank.

AddisNeger, established in October 2007, was a weekly newspaper based in Addis Ababa. The newspaper ceased publication in December 2009 after its operations in Ethiopia were closed down and it now only publishes online.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.


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