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Ethiopian troops cross border into Somalia

Article published on the 2009-10-12 Latest update 2009-10-12 17:06 TU

Members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front in 2006(Photo: Jonathan Alpeyrie)

Members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front in 2006
(Photo: Jonathan Alpeyrie)

Several hundred Ethiopian troops crossed the border into neighbouring Somalia at the weekend, accompanied by Somali pro-government fighters. They arrested villagers and kept them for questioning. The Ethiopian army was withdrawn from Somalia in January.

Soldiers entered three villages west of Beledweyn, around 300 kilometres from Mogadishu, and began search operations, although no weapons were discovered.

“It doesn’t look like this is the start of a new invasion or anything along those lines,” analyst Roger Middleton told RFI.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing dozens of military vehicles, and said they thought the troops were looking for members of the Ogaden group.

“Ethiopia’s primary security concern in this area is really with their own internal opposition forces. The Ogaden National Liberation Front in the eastern part of Ethiopia, often uses Somalia as their back-base for their operations inside Ethiopia,” says Middleton, a specialist on the Horn of Africa.

Soldiers from Ethiopia were withdrawn from Somalia in January this year, after two years battling with Islamic fighters.

“What we’ve seen since the Ethiopian forces pulled out of Mogadishu and out of large areas of southern Somalia at the beginning of the year, is a series of small incursions across the border, either to protect really strategic crossing points on the border or to look for particular individuals,” says the Chatham House analyst.

“Ethiopia and Somalia have a very long history of fairly fractious relations, and a pretty complicated border area,” he added.

Ethiopian troops also entered the Beledweyn in August to drive Islamic fighters from the area.

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