Ethiopia has strongly denied reports of a fresh incursion into Somalia,
five months after calling off an unpopular two year military incursion
to prop up the government in Mogadishu. Ethiopian and Somali
officials are calling the reports 'propaganda'.
Government spokesman Bereket Simon says Ethiopia has no intention of sending soldiers back to Somalia.
troops invaded their Horn of Africa neighbor in 2006 to support the
country's weak transitional government. They pulled out early this
year, after it became clear rebel groups were taking advantage of
long-standing anti-Ethiopian sentiment to expand their public support.
Bereket last week said there had been small 'reconnaissance missions'
by Ethiopian scouts across the border in an area controlled by the
extremist group al-Shabab. But speaking to reporters Saturday, he
flatly rejected news reports that battle wagons full of heavily-armed
troops had occupied a town in central Somalia.
"[The] fact on
the ground is that Ethiopia is within its border," said Bereket. "We
don't have any decision to enter back to Somalia. When we decide, we
will tell to the world, that we have decided to enter that based on our
national interests. But now we don't have that decision, and we haven't
moved an army."
Somalia's Ambassador in Addis Ababa, Said
Noor, called reports of an Ethiopian incursion 'propaganda'
disseminated by agencies controlled by the hardline al-Shabab rebel
group. The envoy pointed to the number of Somalia journalists killed in
recent weeks, and said 'they live in fear if they go against al-Shabab'.
agencies quoted residents Friday as saying Ethiopian troops were
setting up positions in Balanbale, a town just inside Somalia's border,
which has been the scene of fighting between rebels and a
pro-government militia. The reports could not be independently
Spokesman Bereket suggested the reports were part of
a rebel attempt to rekindle the anti-Ethiopian feelings that won them
popular support in the past.
"I think the reason is, the
extremists who are losing ground, to a certain extent feel they can
mobilize people by just presenting such Ethiopian intervention or that
kind of things to the public. that's why they are using this as a
scarecrow to get support," he said.
Somalia has been considered
a failed state since 1991, when dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was
overthrown. Eighteen years of lawlessness has given rise to piracy off
Africa's longest coastline, as well as illicit business on shore.
groups control much of the southern and central parts of the Horn of
Africa nation, while forces loyal to President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh
Ahmed command significantly less territory, and only small parts of the
The United Nations Thursday appealed for
more aid to Somali refugees who have fled to neighboring countries to
escape fighting between rebels and government forces. U.N. officials
estimated 3.2 million people, or 43 percent of Somalia's population,
are in need of humanitarian aid