Ethiopia: Fighting Inside Somalia

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December 10, 2006: Ethiopian trainers and combat troops are helping the militias in Puntland and Somaliland (two independent parts of northern Somalia) to resist takeover attempts by Islamic militants.

December 9, 2006: Ethiopian troops continue to battle Islamic Courts gunmen 80 kilometers southwest of Baidoa in Somalia.

December 8, 2006: A number of firefights were reported inside Somalia between the Islamic Courts militia and units loyal to Somalia's Transitional Government. The Islamic Courts claimed that their fighters also engaged an Ethiopian military force of 1800 troops near the town of Dinsoor. The Islamic Courts claimed that its fighters defeated the Ethiopian force. The claim of victory was disputed by a Transitional Government. However, there was no dispute that a serious fight took place a Dinsoor. Dinsoor is approximately 100 kilometers from Baidoa, the Transitional Government's capital.

The Islamic Courts also accused Ethiopian troops of shelling an Islamist militia position near Bandiradley in Somalia's central area. The Islamic Courts claimed the artillery attack took place on December 6. Bandiradley is about 600 kilometers north of Mogadishu.

The Ethiopian government denied the reports that it had troops fighting inside Somalia, calling them "rumors." Ethiopia has said that it has military trainers in Somalia, which are providing training support to the Transitional Government.

December 6, 2006: Eritrea claimed that eight Ethiopian soldiers crossed the Ethiopia. Eritrea border and defected to Eritrea. The Eritreans said that the Ethiopian soldiers were "protesting" the Ethiopian "invasion" of Somalia. At least five of the soldiers were allegedly Oromos (Moslems from eastern Ethiopia). The soldiers may well have defected (ethnic Oromo defections have happened before) but the claim that the defectors were "protesting" Ethiopia's action in Somalia sounds just a little too politically convenient.

The UN called for an "African protection and training mission" to deploy inside Somalia. The troops and personnel would be supplied by the African Union (AU) and from the East African cooperation group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The UN-AU-IGAD group would be named IGASOM (the SOM indicating Somalia). The force will be authorized to use force. The peacekeepers are intended to help Somalia's Transitional Government. IGASOM will have up to 8000 troops and its initial mandate will run six months. The UN resolution does not permit peacekeeping troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, or Djibouti (Somalia's immediate neighbors. That noted, this UN position is very much in line with Ethiopia's call for an African peacekeeping force in Somalia. Ethiopia is aligned with Somalia's Transitional Government. A Ugandan government spokesman said that Uganda would probably contribute a battalion to the force. The question is, who in Africa, outside of Uganda, will be able to send troops? The winding down of the UN mission in Burundi has freed up some potential troops from South Africa, but those may be committed to an enhanced AU force in Sudan's Darfur. South Africa also has on-going commitments in the Congo.

The UN and Eritrea confirmed an earlier report from last month that two UN contractors were injured when the vehicle they were traveling in detonated a landmine inside the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). The incident took place on November 8. The vehicle hit the mine on a road that had been cleared of landmines. Who did it? No one knows. Eritrea has been actively harassing UN observers in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border area.

December 5, 2006: The Ethiopian government claimed that two members of the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) surrendered. The claim was disputed by an ONLF spokesman. The ONLF is an ethnic Somali rebel group.

 

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