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Ethiopian troops off to Somalia
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 12:17 pm Reply with quote
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Ethiopian troops off to Somalia
24/11/2006 11:10 - (SA)

Mohamed Olad Hassan

Mogadishu - Hundreds of Ethiopian troops reinforced Somalia's transitional government on Friday, hours after Ethiopia's prime minister said his country was ready for war with an Islamic movement that had become the most powerful force in Somalia.

Residents of Baidoa, the government's headquarters, said 138 trucks carrying Ethiopian troops arrived early on Friday

Nunay Selah said: "They parked their trucks around the town. They are digging trenches." Ethiopia had acknowledged sending military advisers to Somalia, but had repeatedly denied sending a fighting force.

The executive leader of the Council of Islamic Courts, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, repeated his call for a holy war against Ethiopian troops inside Somalia and called the internationally-backed government illegitimate because of its alliance with Ethiopia.

Ethiopia 'ready for war'

He said: "A government is established so as to defend its people and religion, but a government harbouring the country's enemy can not be a government.

"I appeal to those who still have moral authority to join the jihad against the enemy of Somalia."

Earlier, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country had completed its preparations for a potential attack by the Islamic courts.

In a speech to parliament, Meles said his first priority was to avoid conflict with the Islamic militia, but "we can't simply close our eyes or look the other way".

He said: The government "has completed this preparation."

But, Ahmed interpreted Meles' comments as a sign that Ethiopia was about to attack Islamic forces and he blamed the United States.

18 US troops killed

Ahmed said: "This declaration of war by Meles Zenawi against Somalia is something that shows that they also have the consent of the US."

Just hours earlier, more moderate members of the Islamic movement invited US government leaders to visit the capital, Mogadishu, a city that had weighed on the minds of Americans since 18 US troops were killed here in 1993.

Ibrahim Hassan Adow, the Islamic movement's foreign affairs chief, said the US - which accused the Council of Islamic Courts of having ties to al-Qaeda - should see for itself that the city was under control.

He said: "We invite US government officials to come to Mogadishu and to see the realities on the ground."

The group's strict interpretation of Islam raised memories of Afghanistan's Taliban, which was ousted by a US-led campaign for harbouring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda fighters. Still, many credited the courts with bringing order.

This week, the group arrested more than 100 people for watching a movie and burned sacks of marijuana and a narcotic herb called qat, saying they violated Islam.

Somalia had not had an effective government since 1991, after warlords overthrew a dictator and later turned on each other.

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Ethiopian troops off to Somalia
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