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Somali Islamists Threaten Ethiopian Troops

The Islamic Courts Union is threatening to attack what it says are 35,000 Ethiopian troops stationed in Somalia, unless the troops leave the country within a week. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi that Ethiopia says it only has military advisors in Somalia, not combat troops.

The defense chief for the Islamic Courts Union, Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad Inda'ade told reporters in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, that Ethiopian troops had better leave Somalia or else face the consequences.

The news editor of Horn Afrik, Mohamed Dhoore, attended the news conference and translates for VOA what the defense chief said.

"There is Ethiopian soldiers in the country - at least 35,000 of Ethiopian troops in Somalia, and they invaded our country," he said. "He said we are telling the international community and all the concerned groups that Ethiopians move or withdraw their troops in the country in seven days, otherwise, will face a war against Ethiopia."

According to Dhoore, the defense chief also urged neighboring Kenya not to allow Ethiopian troops to pass through its territory.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia's Information Ministry spokesman Zemedkun Tekle tells VOA he is somewhat mystified by the Islamic Court's announcement.

"The statement that Ethiopia should pull out its troops from Somalia is baseless," he said. "As it has been repeatedly said, we do not have any fighting troops there. So they are speaking on an issue which is not actually there."

Zemedkun says his country has no plans to evacuate the Ethiopian military advisors who are in Somali training government troops.

"We have been asked to send those advisors by the [Somali] transitional government and whenever they fulfill their tasks there, they will be pulled out," he said.

The Islamists recently declared a Holy War against Ethiopia over the troops issue.

In response, the Ethiopian parliament voted to give Prime Minister Meles Zenawi the authority to take any legal action necessary to repel any attacks by the Islamists.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports Somalia's Interim government prime minister says war with the Islamic militants is "inevitable." Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told AP elements in the Islamic Courts are against peace and stability in the country. He said thousands of militants have surrounded the interim government base in Baidoa.

Late last week, a spokesman for Somalia's Islamist movement reported heavy fighting between its militias and Ethiopian forces. Following that were two days of heavy clashes between government troops and Islamist fighters around Diinsoor, south of Baidoa.