Ethiopia completes Somalia pullout


Nairobi/Mogadishu : Ethiopian forces that have been propping up Somalia’s government for the last two years have left Somalia completely, reports said Sunday.

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Ethiopian forces invaded in late 2006 to help kick out the Islamic Courts’ Union, a hardline Islamist regime that was in power for six months.

The invasion sparked a bloody insurgency that has killed an estimated 16,000 civilians and displaced around one million.

Ethiopian Information Minister Bereket Simon told the BBC that the 3,000 troops had accomplished their mission and eliminated the threat from Islamist insurgents.

However, main insurgent group al-Shabaab in recent months has seized huge territory as the government fell apart.

Government forces now only control parts of the capital Mogadishu and Baidoa, the seat of the government.

Analysts have warned that the departure of Ethiopia’s 3,000 troops could lead to more anarchy in the Horn of Africa nation as Islamist insurgents and other militias struggle to seize power.

Others hope that the Ethiopian departure and the resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed can give fresh impetus to a UN-backed peace process.

However, Islamist militia have been fighting each other and a suicide bombing in Mogadishu killed 15 civilians and a policeman and seriously wounded almost 40 Saturday.

Only an undermanned African Union (AU) force of around 3,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi remains to back government forces, although Uganda and Burundi have put two extra battalions on standby.

The AU is desperately trying to scrape up more troops but the UN has ruled out sending in a peacekeeping force.

Somalia’s government is also in turmoil following the resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who quit when parliament opposed his decision to sack Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.

The Horn of Africa nation has been mired in chaos since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The conflict, combined with drought and rising food prices, has created a humanitarian catastrophe. Some 3.25 million people in Somalia, almost half the population, are dependent on food aid.