Meles Zenawi admits that he has military in Somalia

October 19th, 2006 Print Print Email Email

October 19, 2006 BBC: Ethiopia’s prime minister has for the first time admitted to having soldiers inside Somalia. Meles Zenawi told parliament that he had sent military trainers to help the beleaguered interim government. But he denied sending a fighting force, despite several eyewitness reports of hundreds of troops.

Ethiopia backs Somalia’s government against an Islamist group which now controls most of the south. The Islamists deny having al-Qaeda links. Mr Meles did not say how many military trainers were in Somalia but accused the Union of Islamic Courts of attacking targets inside Ethiopia.

“We have the right to defend ourselves against these people. We have been very patient throughout this ordeal,” he told parliament.

“If the incursion continues… the armed forces have a duty to respond to that. But at this moment, it has not reached this level.” Earlier this month, residents of a Somali town said that Ethiopian troops had helped government forces briefly take a town from the Union of Islamic Courts. The UIC immediately vowed to wage a “holy war” in revenge. The town of Bur Haqaba lies on the road from the government base in Baidoa to the Islamist-held capital, Mogadishu.

Earlier, the BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in Baidoa saw a convoy of Ethiopian army trucks pass through, with about 200 troops.

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