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Ethiopia says technically at war with Somali Islamists
Cat : Peace And Security
Date : 2006-10-25 14:30:18                      Reader : 330

there militarily . Ethiopea should call for dialogue between rivals instead of pushing them to civil war .

Peace & Security

Reuters 25/10/2006

Ethiopia says technically at war with Somali Islamists

By Andrew Cawthorne

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia is "technically" at war with Somalia's Islamists after their declarations of jihad against Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Tuesday.

The Ethiopian leader, in an interview with Reuters, also for the first time put a rough figure -- "a few hundred at most" -- on the number of armed military trainers controversially sent over the border to help Somalia's isolated interim government.

"The jihadist elements within the Islamic Court movement are spoiling for a fight. They've been declaring jihad against Ethiopia almost every other week," Meles said.


"Technically we are at war."

Despite that, Addis Ababa was showing restraint over the Somali crisis and would only intervene if Ethiopian territory was threatened, he said.

"We believe they've been preparing terrorist outrages. They're very close to our border. The indications are not that encouraging. But we've been patient so far and we'll continue to be patient," he said.

"We are trying to avoid a shooting war to the maximum extent possible and therefore, as it were, we are looking the other way," he said.

"They will have to force us to fight. That can come when and if they physically attack us."

Ethiopia views the Mogadishu-based Islamists, who took a swathe of south Somalia in June, as led by terrorists.

The Islamists say Ethiopia wants to control them and has sent thousands of troops across the border to back President Abdullahi Yusuf's government in the town of Baidoa.

Diplomats fear the Somali crisis could spark a regional war as Ethiopia's foe Eritrea, is accused of arming the Islamists.

Meles said Ethiopians in Somalia were only giving "elementary military training" to Yusuf's fledgling security force in line with international support for his government.


"Naturally, they are in a dangerous place so they have to be armed to protect themselves. A few hundred at most would be the number," he said.

ISLAMIST LEADERS "INCORRIGIBLY JIHADIST"

Dressed casually and looking relaxed, Meles denied accusations from the Islamists -- and some eye-witnesses -- that several thousand Ethiopian soldiers had crossed the border.

"If people are seeing these trainers, we are talking about the same thing. If, however, they are imagining large-scale military deployment involving all sorts of military activities, they can only be imagining," he said.

Meles declined to divulge details of how many troops he was massing on the border in case of all-out conflict. "Surely you wouldn't expect me to tell you the truth on that, would you?" he said with a laugh.

Ethiopia views the Mogadishu-based Islamists, who took a swathe of south Somalia in June, as led by terrorists.

The Islamists say Ethiopia wants to control them and has sent thousands of troops across the border to back President Abdullahi Yusuf's government in the town of Baidoa.

Diplomats fear the Somali crisis could spark a regional war as Ethiopia's foe Eritrea, is accused of arming the Islamists.

Meles said Ethiopians in Somalia were only giving "elementary military training" to Yusuf's fledgling security force in line with international support for his government.


"Naturally, they are in a dangerous place so they have to be armed to protect themselves. A few hundred at most would be the number," he said.

ISLAMIST LEADERS "INCORRIGIBLY JIHADIST"

Dressed casually and looking relaxed, Meles denied accusations from the Islamists -- and some eye-witnesses -- that several thousand Ethiopian soldiers had crossed the border.

"If people are seeing these trainers, we are talking about the same thing. If, however, they are imagining large-scale military deployment involving all sorts of military activities, they can only be imagining," he said.

Meles declined to divulge details of how many troops he was massing on the border in case of all-out conflict. "Surely you wouldn't expect me to tell you the truth on that, would you?" he said with a laugh.


 
 
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