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Ethiopian Jets Bomb Airports in Somalia


Ethiopian fighter jets bombed parts of the main airport in Somalia's capital Mogadishu and a second airport held by the Somali Islamist movement about 100 kilometers to the west. The Islamist movement has declared a holy war on Ethiopia for its military support of the rival secular Somali interim government. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi spoke with a reporter in Mogadishu about the attack there.

Details of the attack are still sketchy. But residents in Mogadishu say at least two Ethiopian fighter jets roared across the sky Monday morning, dropping two bombs on the airport.

A reporter for Somalia's Shabelle Radio in Mogadishu, Mohamed Amin Sheikh Adow, tells VOA that the attack wounded one woman and damaged the runway and parts of a building.

Adow says the bombing has also left many people shocked and deeply worried about what will happen next.

"The situation is deteriorating. They are very scared how things are developing," he said. "Nobody was expecting that Ethiopian bombardment would come to Mogadishu."

Adow says Islamist leaders are urging Somalis to remain calm and to prepare to fight a holy war against as many as 30,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

Islamist forces took power in Mogadishu nearly seven months ago and have moved rapidly to seize large parts of southern and central Somalia.

The Islamists' expansion, which included a threat to absorb disputed regions of Ethiopia into a greater Somalia, prompted Addis Ababa to intervene to bolster Somalia's internationally-recognized but virtually powerless government in the town of Baidoa, 250 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu.

For months, neighboring Ethiopia dismissed numerous reports that it had sent combat troops to fight alongside Somali government forces.

But on Sunday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi openly acknowledged that his country was at war with the Somali Islamists because the Islamists had declared a war on Ethiopia.

The prime minister's announcement came shortly after Ethiopian jets reportedly bombed Islamic positions in the town of Belet Weyne, on the Somali-Ethiopian border along the Shabelle River. Government military officials say the attack forced Islamist fighters to abandon the town.

[Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Geddi told VOA's Horn of Africa Service Monday that Ethiopian troops are in Somalia to support his government. He added that there are 5,000 Eritrean soldiers in the country aiding the Islamists.]

Just outside Baidoa, clashes between Ethiopian-backed government and Islamist forces are said to be continuing Monday, after heavy fighting in the area last week left scores of people killed and injured.

Experts and diplomats warn the conflict could spread and turn into a catastrophic regional war. A recent U.N. report named 10 countries, which it says have been illegally supplying arms and equipment to both sides of the conflict and using Somalia as a proxy battlefield.

Western countries, including the United States, fear Somalia's Islamist movement is being increasingly led by extremists with ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Residents in Mogadishu and elsewhere say they have seen hundreds of foreign fighters arriving in Somalia, answering the Islamists' call to fight a holy war against Ethiopia.