Ethiopia: Sucked Into Somalia


August 21, 2006: Over the weekend, more Ethiopian troops entered Somalia, moving towards the town of the Baidoa, where the Somali transitional government is established. The Somali transitional federal government denied that Ethiopian troops were inside Somalia. Ethiopia will fight an Islamist attempt to takeover complete control of Somalia. For a month there have been numerous reports that the Islamic Courts, which controls Mogadishu, would make a thrust at Baidoa. It appears Ethiopia has decided to position its forces to help its Somali allies defend Baidoa. This could also be a signal designed to discourage any move by the ICU. At the moment a significant number of Ethiopian military forces have been assigned to help with flood relief. Ethiopia could be moving forces along the Somali border to demonstrate that it has sufficient forces to blunt an ICU-directed offensive. The Transitional Government has become a firm ally of Ethiopia in its disputes with Eritrea, announcing that it would provide sanctuary for Eritrean rebel groups.
August 19, 2006: 35 US Navy Seabees deployed to Ethiopia to help with flood disaster work. On August 18 Ethiopia reported that 870 people had died in heavy floods that swept the countryside (Omo River valley region and the Awah River). The Ethiopian government appealed for international aid. The Seabees are assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5. The Seabees will be bringing tents and helping provide shelter to over 6000 refugees.
August 16, 2006: Ten more Ethiopian soldiers of the Oromo ethnic group reportedly defected to Eritrea. Two of the defectors were identified as captains (company commanders).
August 15, 2006: The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reported that one civilian died when he stepped on a landmine near the Eritrea-Ethiopia border. The UN also said it has mine-clearance teams operating just west of the disputed town of Badme. Negotiations between Ethiopia and Eritrea remain "frozen" --no change from the stand-off that has been going on for months. However, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of supporting the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia. This is why many analysts say the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war is now no longer being fought on the border, but has moved to southern Somalia.
August 12, 2006: Keny announced that its troops had captured 45 rebels belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The OLF is an Ethiopian separatist group. Kenyan security forces began arresting the OLF members August 6. The arrests were made in Kenya's northern Moyale and Marsabit districts. The Kenyan drive was also directed against local thieves..
Meanwhile, an Ethiopian general who is en ethnic Oromo defected to Eritrea. The general was identified as Brigadier Kemal Gelchu. He was interviewed in Asmara, Ethiopia. Gelchu defected on August 8 and brought 150 soldiers with him. said Gelchu commanded the Ethiopian Army's 18th Division. Gelchu said he opposes the current Ethiopian government. The government is dominated by members of the Tigrayan ethnic group. Tigrayan's make up approximately ten percent of Ethiopia's population.
August 11, 2006: Ethiopian troops killed 13 rebel fighters after they crossed the Somalia-Ethiopia border. The rebels belonged to the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Ethiopia said it had also captured other rebels. The captured rebels reportedly said they were "armed and trained" by both Somali Islamist organizations and the government of Eritrea. "Somali Islamist" organizations is no doubt a code word of the Islamic Courts Union, which now controls Mogadishu and surrounding areas.


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