Ethiopian troops move into Somalia
Kenya began attack five weeks ago on Islamist militants it blames for kidnappings
MOGADISHU • Scores of Ethiopian military vehicles pushed at least 80 kilometres into neighbouring Somalia on Saturday, residents said, five weeks after Kenya entered Somalia to fight Islamist militants it blames for a wave of kidnappings on its soil.
“The Ethiopian troops, which are in convoys of armoured vehicles, come to us today, crossing from Balanbale district on the border,” Gabobe Adan, an elder in the central town of Guriel said.“they were in about 28 trucks and armed battle wagons.”
Other residents said the Ethiopians had set up a base in Guriel and moved troops to other towns nearby.
Residents and officials in northeast Kenya later said that Ethiopian troops had also crossed through their towns and taken up positions near bases from where the Kenyan military is launching its offensive.
“We have seen Ethiopian troops. They are clearly known to us,” said a resi- dent named Lesamow Said. “They arrived this evening at Damasa. Some of the soldiers crossed over to the Somalia side and started patrolling immediately.”
People in the Kenyan town of Mandera, near both Somalia and Ethiopia, said the Ethiopians had passed through in a convoy of 10 trucks and several armoured vehicles.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian government, Shimeles Kemal, would neither confirm nor deny the reports.
Another Ethiopian official said an Ethiopian move to support the Kenyan assault on the al- Qaeda linked al Shabaab group was likely.
“There is a strong possibility that we will be sending troops to Somalia soon to support Kenya’s operation against the al Shabaab extremists,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The intention of the Ethiopian troops was not immediately clear. One elder who did not want to be named said they would train Somali fighters loyal to the government.
Senior Kenyan government ministers have gone around the East Africa region this week and travelled to the Gulf to drum up political and financial support for a campaign to rout the rebels.