Ethiopian troops invade key central Somalia town

Posted on 01/01/2012

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Ethiopian troops poured into a strategic town in central Somalia on Saturday, seizing it from the al-Shabab militant group and opening a new axis of conflict in the country.

The loss of Beledweyne, a trading hub near the Ethiopian border, leaves the al-Shabab rebels, who once controlled much of the country, spread thin and on the defensive.

African Union forces have been pounding their positions in Mogadishu, the capital, driving al-Shabab fighters from most of the city. Kenyan troops, meanwhile, are battling al-Shabab in the swampy jungles along the Kenya-Somalia border.

Dozens of people appeared to have been killed in the fighting in Beledweyne, with conflicting casualty reports from Somali government officials and from al-Shabab.

The Ethiopian forces, who crossed into Somalia with heavy armor last month, were joined by militias and troops allied to Somalia’s weak transitional federal government, the internationally recognized authority that controls little territory of its own.

“Today, the government and the people of Somalia have stood up against the evils of al Qaeda and al-Shabab terrorists, who have for so long terrorized and killed countless Somalis and our neighbors,” Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said in a statement.

The statement added that “the Somali National Army recaptured some al-Shabab-occupied territories” and that this was a “historic operation.”

Al-Shabab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and installed a reign of terror in the areas it controls, chopping off hands, blocking the delivery of emergency food to famine victims and raping girls, especially those who have moved into crowded, lawless refugee camps.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle-01.01.2012-(Jeffrey Gettleman,Mohammed Ibrahim, New York Times)

 

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