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Ethiopia attacks Militant Islamist group in Somalia

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History of Ethiopian involvement: The first incursion by Ethiopian troops after the fall of the central Somali government took place in August 1996.

In March 1999, Ethiopian troops seemingly raided the Somali border town of Balanballe in pursuit of members of the Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya group which has been combating to unite Ethiopia’s eastern Ogaden region with Somalia.

Afterward, in April 1999 two Somali leaders, Ali Mahdi and Hussein Aideed, said in an official protest to the United Nations Security Council, that heavily-armed Ethiopian troops entered the towns of Beledhawo and Dolo on Friday, April 9, 1999.

They further alleged that the Ethiopian troops had taken over the local administration and detained officials in the towns.

In May 1999, Ethiopian soldiers, with the help of a pro-Ethiopian Somali faction occupied the town of Luq in southwestern Somalia, close to the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya.

In late June 1999, Ethiopian soldiers, supported by armoured vehicles launched an attack from Luq that resulted in the capture the town of Garba Harre in the Gedo region, which was previously controlled by the Somali National Front lead by Hussein Aideed.

The attack was apparently aimed at flushing out Ethiopian rebels based in Somalia.

After the formation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia in August 2000, Ethiopia at first did not recognize the interim government and reportedly continued its raids against Al-Ittihad and supporting various warlord factions, which lead to very stressed relations between the Ethiopian government and the interim Somali government denials and counter-accusations on both sides.

In January 2001, Somalia’s TNG Prime Minister, Ali Khalif Galaid, sturdily accused Ethiopia of arming factions opposed to the government, occupying Somali districts and increasing its military presence in the country.

He afterward claimed that Ethiopian soldiers had occupied towns in Somalia’s southwestern region, and had detained and intimidated its nationals; the Ethiopian government denied these charges.

Ethiopia has supported and is supposed to have supported a number of different Somali factions at one time or another. Among these are:

• The Somali Reconstruction and Restoration Council (SRRC)
• Muse Sudi Yalahow
• General Mohammed Said Hirsi Morgan
• Hassan Mohamed Nur Shatigudud and his Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA)
• Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (former President of Puntland and current Somali TNG President).

Reports near the beginning of January, 2002 indicated that around 300 Ethiopian soldiers were positioned in Garowe (capital of Puntland) with other Ethiopian troops allegedly moving into the neighbouring Bay region and around Baidoa.

The Ethiopian government didn’t accept these reports and accused the interim government of spreading “malicious lies” about Ethiopia’s policy towards Somalia.

Ethiopian soldiers again attacked and momentarily captured the border town of Beledhawo on Wednesday, May 15.

During the attack, the commander of the rival militia, Colonel Abdirizak Issak Bihi, was captured by the Ethiopian forces and taken across the border to Ethiopia.

After the attack, control of the town was turned over to the SRRC. Earlier in May, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had retaken control of Puntland by ousting his rival Jama Ali Jama with the aid of the Ethiopian army.

In February 2003, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, admitted that Ethiopian troops were sporadically sent into Somalia to fight the militant Islamist group, Al-Ittihad and affirmed that the group was connected to Al-Qaeda.

He also asserted that Ethiopia’s government had lists of Al-Ittihad members who were, at the time, in the Transitional National Government and parliament of Somalia; a claim that TNG President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan has consistently denied.

President Hassan has in turn, blamed Ethiopia of destabilizing Somalia, interfering daily in Somali affairs and violating the arms embargo on Somalia by supplying weapons to warlords opposed to the Transitional Government at the time; Ethiopia denied these charges.

Although an attempt was made to perk up relations between Ethiopia and the TNG  relations only really improved in 2004 when Abdullahi Yusuf became the TNG President.

Then Ethiopia reversed its position and began to support the interim government, especially against various Islamist militias in Somalia Spritgussvorlage, most recently the Islamic Courts Union.

Keywords: Balanballe, Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya, Ogaden, Ali Mahdi, Hussein Aideed, Beledhawo, Dolo, Luq, Garowe, Colonel Abdirizak Issak Bihi, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed,