[dehai-news] (AFP) Somalia: Joy as Ethiopian troops depart

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Tue Jan 13 2009 - 08:28:39 EST

  Ethiopia pulls out first troops from Somali capital

Jan.13, 2008 - 2 hours ago

MOGADISHU (AFP) Ethiopian forces pulled out Tuesday from two bases in
northern Mogadishu in their first withdrawal from the lawless Somali capital
since rolling into the seaside city two years ago.

Farah Abdi Warsame, a resident said: "It is a happy day today to see the
area for the first time in two years without the Ethiopian forces. We hope
the rest will leave the country."

Hundreds of residents rushed to see the empty camps in Yakshid district,
which alongside other Mogadishu neighbourhoods have seen some of the worst
violence between Islamist insurgents and the forces.

"The Ethiopian forces withdrew from key positions in northern Mogadishu
overnight and our fighters took control of the areas in order to avoid a
power vacuum," added Sheikh Hassan Osman, an Islamist official.

Ethiopia announced its withdrawal in November, sparking concerns of a
security vacuum in the war-ravaged country where an African Union force has
been unable to halt the violence and insurgents have retaken many regions.

The ill-equipped and under-funded AU force expected to eventually number
8,000 soldiers currently comprises only 3,400 troops from Uganda and

Addis Ababa sent its forces into Somalia in late 2006 to back an embattled
interim government against an Islamist movement that had gained control of
swathes of territory in south and central Somalia.

But the ouster of the Islamists triggered relentless fighting that has
killed thousands of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands others.

The United Nations top envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah urged hardline
Islamists who had pegged their participitation in peace talks on the
Ethiopian withdrawal to end fighting.

"Today the Ethiopians have respected their commitment," Ould-Abdallah said
in a statement.

"The ball is now in the court of the Somalis, particularly those who said
they were only fighting against the Ethiopian forces, to stop the senseless
killings and violence."

Moderate Islamists had signed a deal with the transitional government for a
gradual withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, a power-sharing and a ceasefire
agreement under UN-mediated talks.

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