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Last Ethiopian Troops Leave Somalia's Capital


Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia's fragile government have now completely withdrawn from that country's capital, Mogadishu.

The deputy governor of Somalia's Banadir Region, which includes Mogadishu, says Ethiopian forces abandoned the last of their bases overnight. Residents say they saw the last convoy of Ethiopian troops and vehicles leaving the city early Thursday.

The pullout is part of a general Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia that began Monday. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Thursday that his troops will remain stationed on the Somali border.

Some Somalis hope the withdrawal will lead to a more unified and effective government, while others fear the power vacuum will trigger increased fighting among insurgent groups that battled the Ethiopians.

At least seven people were killed in the Lower Shabelle region Thursday in fighting between a local militia and the most prominent insurgent group, al-Shabab.

Fighting in Mogadishu on Wednesday killed at least 21 people.

Al-Shabab has said it will now focus its attacks on African Union peacekeepers based in Mogadishu.

Ethiopia sent thousands of troops into Somalia in late 2006 to help the Somali government oust an Islamist movement that had seized power in Mogadishu and other cities.

The offensive succeeded but sparked a two-year Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced more than a million Somalis.

Ethiopia has said it will fully withdraw its troops by the end of this week, following an October peace deal between the Somali government and an alliance of moderate Islamist groups.

The government remains weak, controlling only the capital and Baidoa, the seat of the country's parliament. Somalia has not had an effective central government in 18 years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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