Date: Fri Jan 02 2009 - 19:39:22 EST
International Herald Tribune
Ethiopian Army begins pullout from Somalian capital
By Mohamed Ibrahim and Jeffrey Gettleman
Friday, January 2, 2009
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ethiopian Army trucks, packed with soldiers, tents,
mattresses and other gear, began to pull out of Mogadishu, Somalia's battle
zone of a capital, on Friday in the first signs of the expected Ethiopian
Many Somalis in their path fled, predicting that the Ethiopians would be
attacked by mines and insurgents. Almost as soon as they began to move, the
Ethiopians hit a roadside bomb.
Thousands of Ethiopian troops stormed into Mogadishu two years ago in an
attempt to shore up Somalia's weak transitional government and wipe out an
Islamist administration that the Ethiopians considered a terrorist threat.
But the Ethiopian occupation mostly failed. The Somali government is as
divided and weak as ever.
Islamist insurgents have seized control of much of Somalia. Thousands of
civilians have been killed in relentless combat between Islamist militants
and the Ethiopians, with European Union officials accusing the Ethiopians
of war crimes. Millions of Somalis are now on the brink of famine, the
victims of war, displacement, drought and disease.
The Ethiopians were never popular in Somalia. But as people in Mogadishu
watched the first convoy of 18 heavily loaded trucks chug down the
bullet-pocked streets, many said they feared what would happen next.
"If the Ethiopians leave, there is a possibility of war among the Islamist
fighters," said Jamal Ali, a student at Mogadishu University.
It is not clear whether the Ethiopian troops are leaving Somalia entirely
or simply being redeployed from Mogadishu to other areas of the country.
"We have already started to implement our withdrawal plan," said Bereket
Simon, a high-ranking Ethiopian official, according to Agence
France-Presse. "It is a process and it will take some time."
About 3,000 African Union peacekeepers are in Somalia, trying to protect
the few fortified enclaves that Somalia's transitional government controls.
Mohamed Ibrahim reported from Mogadishu and Jeffrey Gettleman from Nairobi.
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