Somalia: Ethiopia troops move in as AU-Shabab conflict intensifies

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The battle for control of Mogadishu has intensified and the African Union, backing the Somalian government, has suffered a loss of four of its men after an insurgent mortar hit Somalia’s presidential palace.

The Islamist extremist group al-Shabab said it had carried out an attack which killed four African Union peacekeepers. According to reports, those killed were from Uganda.

The Islamist group has also threatened to close the road to Mogadishu’s airport in their latest offensive.

Following al-Shabab’s increasing violence, unconfirmed reports claim that Ethiopian troops have been crossing into Somalia over the last two days to tackle the extreme Islamist group.

The latest al-Shabab attack follows last Monday’s suicide attack on a hotel that killed at least 32 people, including six MPs.

Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for the Uganda bombing that killed at least 76 people.

Despite the wave of attacks by al-shabab, spokesman for the AU peacekeepers told reporters the mortar attack was of little significance.

“These opposition groups fire from positions three to four kilometers from our positions. It was a pure coincidence that the mortar was able to kill four and injure eight of our soldiers,” Major Barigye Bahoku was quoted.

Major Barigye Bahoku also dismiss claims that al-Shabab had closed the road to the airport in Mogadishu.

“They cannot do it as long as we [the AU] are present. Every single Ramadan [Muslim holy month], these guys come up with these threats. In 2008 they said the airport would never function again,” he was quoted.

“This year they say they will chase away the brotherly African Union peacekeepers. They just make a lot of noise and that noise will never materialize to anything serious.”

On Monday, Un-backed Somali President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad appealed for more international help to contain the “evil al-Qaeda-al-Shabab alliance”.

Last month African leaders agreed to send an extra 2,000 troops to Mogadishu.

In 2006, Ethiopia sent between 5,000 and 10,000 troops into Somalia in support of the transitional government.

They [Ethiopian troops] were demanded to withdraw and in 2009 after MPs chose Mr Ahmad, a moderate Islamist, to replace President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who had been a close ally of Ethiopia. Ethiopian troops withdrew.

Somalia has experienced incessant conflict since the collapse of its central government in 1991, and Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, controls much of southern and central Somalia.

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