Ethiopia will stay out of Somalia despite threat

Islamist Fighters in Somalia
Islamist Fighters in Somalia

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Ethiopia on Wednesday said it will not send troops to Somalia, though a hardline Islamist militia fighting to topple the Somali government recently threatened to invade the neighbouring country.

“No matter what has been said, our position is that we are not entering Somalia at this point,” government spokesman Bereket Simon told reporters.

He nonetheless termed this week’s threat by the hardline Shebab fighters as “an open declaration of war,” and said Addis Ababa was closely monitoring events in the war-ravaged neighbouring state.

Ethiopian troops rolled into Somalia in late 2006 to buttress an embattled government but withdrew earlier this year.

Somali residents have recently reported seeing truckloads of Ethiopian troops around the country’s central regions but Ethiopian officials have repeatedly denied those claims.

On May 7, the Shebab and Hezb al-Islam, a more political group, launched an unprecedented nationwide offensive against the administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The internationally backed Sharif has been holed up in his presidential quarters, protected by African Union peacekeepers as his forces were unable to reassert their authority over the capital.

Around 300 people are confirmed to have been killed in the latest violence, many of them civilians.