Ethiopian troops set to leave Somalia by end April: AU

Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:45am GMT

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia, which has deployed hundreds of troops inside Somalia to rout Islamist insurgents, is set to withdraw from the war-ravaged country by the end of April with Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi poised to step in, the African Union said on Friday.

Ethiopian forces captured the rebel stronghold of Baidoa in southern Somalia last month having seized Baladwayne from the al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab group on New Year's Eve.

Troops from Ethiopia crossed the border in November to open up a third front against the militants, who are also fighting 9,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Kenyan forces to the south.

Keen to point out their incursion is not a repeat of their ill-fated 2006-2009 war in Somalia, Ethiopian officials have said troops would only be deployed for a brief period.

Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council voted to expand AMISOM, which supports the shaky Western-backed government, to nearly 18,000 soldiers, and will include Kenyan troops who will "re-hat" to its blue berets.

Chiefs of staff from troop contributing countries met in Addis Ababa to iron out details of the expanding mission.

"It provides for Djiboutian forces to be deployed in Baladwayne by the end of April at the latest. Two thousand five hundred troops from Burundi and Uganda will also be deployed in Baidoa by the 30th of April at the latest," the AU's Ramtane Lamamra said of a deal signed by the officials.

"The decision up to now is that it is essentially Baladwayne and Baidoa (for Ethiopia) and they have to be handed over to AMISOM and then Ethiopia will withdraw its forces to its own national territory."   Continued...

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops patrol after fighting against Islamist insurgents al Shabaab in Suqa Holaha village of Horiwaa district, Mogadishu March 3, 2012.   REUTERS/Feisal Omar
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