Ethiopia admits reconnaisance missions in Somalia

somali_fighterADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Ethiopia has undertaken military reconnaisance operations in violence-wracked nearby Somalia, but is not planning to re-deploy, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

“We have no plans to go back to Somalia… (but) there are reconnaisance missions,” Information Minister Bereket Simon told reporters.

Ethiopian troops rolled into Somalia in late 2006 to buttress an embattled transitional government against radical Islamist insurgents.

But it has repeatedly rejected accusations from local Somalis that it crossed back into the country last month in the wake of renewed fighting which has killed more than 200 people in one month.

“We haven’t entered Somalia. But when there is a threat you can send scouts, and reconnaissance missions. That is normal,” Bereket said without giving details.

This is the first time the authorities in Addis Ababa acknowledge the existence of military activities in Somalia since its troops pulled out at the start of the year.

Witnesses have in recent weeks reported seeing Ethiopian troops inside Somalia, mainly around Beledweyne, a regional capital located near the border.

“We stood by on our borders following closely the situation,” added Bereket.

Ethiopia’s entry into Somalia in 2006 was backed by an six-country regional bloc under the aegis of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and with the backing of the African Union.