Reports: Ethiopian Troops Enter Somalia

Posted November 19th, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Residents say a large number of Ethiopian troops have crossed into neighboring Somalia, just weeks after Kenyan forces entered the country to pursue al-Shabab militants.

News reports quote Somali elders as saying the Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia Saturday in armored vehicles.

The Ethiopian government would not confirm the reports, but the Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed Ethiopian official saying that there was a “strong possibility” the nation's military would soon support Kenya's operation against al-Shabab.

The African Union has also said Ethiopian forces may join its peacekeepers fighting al-Shabab.

Ethiopian troops are widely unpopular in Somalia, where many residents came to view them as brutal during an incursion from 2006 to 2009.

Ethiopian officials have said no final decision has been made on joining a coordinated military campaign aimed at stamping out al-Shabab. But foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said Ethiopia will be a part of the process.

Dina said a decision on Ethiopia's participation would likely be announced next Friday, after a meeting of a six-nation regional block known as IGAD .

During next week's meeting, East African leaders will discuss ways to help Somalia's fragile transitional government take back large sections of central and southern Somalia under al-Shabab control.

The Somali government, with the support of African Union troops, drove the Islamist extremists from the capital, Mogadishu, this year.

The Kenyan military crossed into southern Somalia after accusing al-Shabab of kidnapping foreigners on Kenyan soil.

The recent gains have raised hopes the Somali-based insurgents will be finished off, and that Somalia can regain stability.

Somalia has endured 20 years of conflict and lawlessness since the collapse of the last stable government in 1991.