Somali residents welcome Ethiopian troops after rebel rout
* Residents previously resented Ethiopian presence
* Baidoa was seat of government until 2009
* Ethiopian military say al Shabaab weakened
By Kumerra Gemechu
BAIDOA, Somalia, March 4 (Reuters) - After three years of killings and violence under the rule of al Shabaab rebels, residents of the Somali city of Baidoa said they were happy to see the arrival of Ethiopian soldiers, whose presence they once resented.
Under al Shabaab's control, Baidoa's leaders say the city's people became poorer, conditions worsened and many were forced to flee. The return of Ethiopian troops, once seen as Christian invaders in a Muslim country, was a welcome relief.
Ethiopian and Somali troops seized the city from al Shabaab insurgents last month, in a major blow to the militants battling Somalia's weak interim government.
Somalia has been in turmoil since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Fighting has killed more than 21,000 people since al Shabaab launched its insurgency in 2007.
"Al Shabaab colonised us for three years and 12 days. Many of us were killed, many of us were displaced and many have migrated. So we are the survivors," Mohammed Ma'alim Barhi, a clan leader, told reporters in the city 250 km northwest of Mogadishu. Continued...