‘Somali people must intensify their war’

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iol news pic Somalia Military Strike AP In this file photo, al-Shabaab fighters march with their weapons during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor, File)

Mogadishu - Somalia's Shebab insurgents called on Saturday for renewed attacks against foreign forces, after arch-enemy Ethiopia joined the African Union force battling the extremists.

Top commanders of the al-Qaeda-linked group, including insurgent supremo Ahmed Abdi Godane, met this week after Ethiopia formally joined the UN-backed mission known as AMISOM, Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP.

“They have declared that the Somali people must intensify their war against AMISOM,” Rage said.

“We defeated Ethiopia before and we know how to battle them now,” he added.

Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia in 2006 in a US-backed invasion, but pulled out three years later in the face of stiff opposition. They formally crossed back into Somalia in November 2011, where units have remained ever since.

Hardline Shebab insurgents control large parts of rural southern Somalia, and despite having been driven from a string of towns by AMISOM, guerrilla units stage regular deadly attacks in the capital Mogadishu.

On Wednesday, 4 395 Ethiopia troops were formally integrated into AMISOM, joining soldiers from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

AMISOM said their inclusion will free up other units to stage a long-awaited offensive on Shebab bases in the far southern regions, with Kenyan units advancing from the south, and Uganda and Burundi pressing from the north.

After a series of sweeping victories, the force has remained largely still for around a year, hampered by limited troops and air power to advance again.

“Ethiopia joining AMISOM... reflects the weakness of the force and their inability to control the movement of the Shebab,” Rage added.

“It reflects the fact that Somalia has been partitioned between Kenya and Ethiopia, and the international community is legalising that partition.”

Ethiopia had sent troops into its lawless neighbour in a US-backed invasion in 2006, but the move sparked a bloody uprising and the troops pulled out three years later after failing to restore order. - Sapa-AFP

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