Monday, January 26, 2009

Last batch of Ethiopian troops leave Somalia

Ethiopian troops ride on a military truck as they leave Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 13, 2009. The last batch of soldiers left Baidoa town on Monday. REUTERS 

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF, NATION Correspondent,

SOMALIA, Monday

The last Ethiopian soldiers left Baidoa town, 240km southwest of Mogadishu on Monday.

Baidoa is the base of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament.

The last position in Baidoa, held by the Ethiopians, was the town’s airstrip and residents saw heavy convoy of military vehicles with personnel heading towards north.

“The Ethiopians have left Baidoa, bound for their border with Somalia,” said Mr Abdullahi Ali Madeey, a trader in Baidoa.

The withdrawal

Following the withdrawal of the troops from the presidential compound, the livestock market and the airport, the forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and local clan militias are guarding the main installations.

The local forces have restricted movement of goods and people, but tension remains high.

The TFG forces and the local militias appear reasonably equipped to repel any attempt by the Islamists in the area to capture Baidoa.

Islamist Al-Shabaab spokesman and militia leader Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, told Baidoa Radio on Sunday that his fighters would overwhelm Baidoa should the Ethiopians leave.

“We are going to come to Baidoa and rule the people by Sharia (Islamic) laws,” said Sheikh Mansur. “We are not going to fight unless we meet resistance,” he added.

Ten legislators from the area remain in Baidoa and there are speculations that they want to lead resistance against Al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist movement that wants to overthrow the TFG.

Power sharing

The group is totally opposed to the Djibouti Agreement signed last October between the TFG and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). The accord is likely to lead to power sharing between the Government and the Opposition.

According to the residents, tension is high, especially as heavily armed TFG forces and local militias are moving about in the town.

“The people here are afraid that we maybe badly affected by any confrontation between the forces in Baidoa and the fighters of Al-Shabaab,” said Mr Madeey.

Prof Ibrahim Eno Mudey, the spokesman of the local intellectuals, asked the people to keep calm. He also requested the armed groups in the area to refrain from engaging in violence.
Meanwhile, a convoy of the Burundian contingent serving the African Mission in Somalia, Amisom, was on Monday attacked with a landmine.

The incident took place along the Industrial Road in South Mogadishu, close to the former Jaalle Siyad Military Academy that houses a unit of the Burundian contingent.

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