Ethiopia May Join Battle Against Somalia’s Al-Shabab

Posted November 25th, 2011 at 2:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Ethiopia says it may contribute troops to an alliance fighting al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia.

Ethiopian officials said they would consider sending the troops following a request made by a six-nation regional block known as IGAD . The head of the bloc, Mahboub Maalim, said Ethiopia had agreed to help.

IGAD leaders met in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Friday.

It was not immediately clear how Ethiopian troops would contribute to the campaign against al-Shabab militants. A top African Union official, Ramtane Lamamra, told VOA that any Ethiopian force would not be under the command of the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Witnesses say Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia a few days ago, but officials in Addis Ababa denied doing so.

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

African Union and Kenyan forces, as well as troops from Somalia's weak transitional government, are battling al-Shabab militants. Large sections of central and southern Somalia are under al-Shabab control.

A deployment of Ethiopian forces into Somalia could create a new front against al-Shabab.

Kenya's military crossed into southern Somalia last month to pursue al-Shabab insurgents, after accusing them of kidnapping foreigners on Kenyan soil.

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