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Showdown looms in Somalia

Showdown looms in Somalia

Several thousand Somali and Ethiopian troops were headed to the southern seaport stronghold of a rival Islamic force, a government official said yesterday, setting the scene for a final showdown.
With 16 Ethiopian tanks, armored vehicles and artillery in support, the troops were 120 kilometers north of the front line, where an estimated 3,000 hardcore Islamic fighters were wedged between the Kenyan border and the Indian Ocean.
"We are going to advance from different directions to try and encircle the city and force the Islamic group to retreat and so minimize the loss of civilians," government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told The Associated Press. Government troops currently are in the town of Barava, 100 kilometers south of Mogadishu.
In the last 10 days, the Islamic group has been forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, and other key towns in the face of heavy Ethiopian-led attacks.
The interim Somali government and its Ethiopian allies, who accuse the Islamic group of harboring al-Qaida terrorists, hope to close the net before they can slip out of the country amid reports that some foreign fighters are trying to flee through neighboring Kenya or by boat.
Ethiopia is a close ally of the United States, which is keen to capture suspected al-Qaida terrorists in the Horn of Africa.
The U.S. government - which says four suspects in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have become leaders in the Islamic movement in Africa - has a counterterrorism task force based in neighboring Djibouti and has been training Kenyan and Ethiopian forces to protect their borders.
The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet also has a maritime task force patrolling international waters off the Somali coast.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, who flew to the outskirts of Mogadishu aboard an Ethiopian military helicopter yesterday, said his government was in daily contact with the U.S.


Updated : 2021-05-17 11:04 GMT+08:00