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Ethiopia Reacts to Threat of Jihad by Somali Islamists

Ethiopia has again said it has no troops in Somalia and that it will not unilaterally attack Somalia unless attacked by the Islamists. Yesterday, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia declared jihad or holy war against Ethiopia for invading Somalia. Bereket Simon is advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. He tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty he hopes the Islamists will think carefully before putting their Jihad threat into action.

“We have heard that the fundamentalists in the Islamist Courts have declared jihad on Ethiopia. This clearly indicates the provocative nature of the fundamentalist groups in Somalia. We know that they want to reflect the attitude of the people from the internal crisis that has gripped them to external neighboring countries. But we hope they would not do anything in that regard.”

Simon does not rule out the possibility of the Islamists resorting to terrorist attacks against Ethiopia.

“You know that the situation in Somalia is complicated, and we believe such a declaration of war and jihad against a neighboring country would be explained in terms of whatever is available. So terrorism is one area they might provoke. In any case, as a neighboring country we wish good for the Somali people. Ethiopia will closely watch the position of the fundamentalists and try to act accordingly. We will wait and see as to how they translate this declaration into practice.”

The Islamists made their threat after accusing Ethiopia of backing the Somalia interim government attack the town of Bur Hakaba. But Simon again denied that Ethiopian troops are in Somalia.

“No, we didn’t occupy any part of Somalia. As we have told several times, Ethiopia is abided by the decision of IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, and organization of six east African countries) as well as the African Union. Ethiopia has time and again declared that it is not going to act unilaterally unless it is directly attacked by the jihadists.”

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