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Ethiopian troops packing up to leave Somalia

Ethiopian troops packing up to leave Somalia

Ethiopian troops who have been propping up Somalia's government for the past two years were packing up to leave Wednesday amid fears their departure will allow a strengthening Islamic insurgency to take over.
But it was unclear when the thousands of soldiers would actually depart. They are expected to leave in stages, not all at once.
Ethiopia originally said it would end its unpopular presence here by the end of December, but officials have since declined to give an exact date because of fears of a power vacuum.
Somali military officials and soldiers said the Ethiopians were awaiting word on when to go.
"They have stopped dealing with us, all they could tell us was that they were getting ready for a final departure from Somalia," Somali soldier Fuad Muhumed Afey, who drives a water tank used by Ethiopians, said of the Ethiopian troops.
Witnesses said many soldiers were packing mattresses, personal belongings and loading trucks with their military supplies.
For two decades, Somalia has been beset by anarchy, violence and an insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives. Some of the insurgents are alleged to have ties with al-Qaida.
Somalia's former president, Abdullahi Yusuf, who resigned this week, called in Ethiopia for help two years ago to rout Islamic militants who had taken over most of the country. Ethiopia's superior firepower worked _ the Islamists were driven from power, however briefly _ but many Somalis see the Ethiopians as "occupiers" and accused them of brutality.
The insurgents have since used the Ethiopian presence to gain recruits even as the Islamists' strict form of Islam has terrified many Somalis into submission. Now, the Islamists again control most of the nation after near daily attacks and roadside bombs.
"We will not stop fighting even if the Ethiopian troops withdraw because our aim is to implement Islamic law across Somalia," said Sheik Muktar Robow, leader of the most aggressive Islamic insurgency group, al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab has taken control of vast amounts of new territory in recent months. Washington accuses al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Many of the insurgency's senior figures are Islamic radicals; some are on the U.S. State Department's list of wanted terrorists.
Thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed by mortar shells, machine-gun crossfire and grenades in fighting in the arid country.
Yusuf's resignation could usher in more chaos as Islamic militants scramble and even fight among themselves for power. The government controls only pockets of Mogadishu, the capital, and Baidoa, the seat of Parliament.


Updated : 2021-04-13 22:53 GMT+08:00