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[Published: Tuesday February 03 2009]

Ethiopia troops 'back in Somalia'

Addis Ababa, 03 Feb-(ANA)-Ethiopian troops have re-entered Somalia just two weeks after pulling out, according to witnesses.

Local officials said Ethiopian soldiers had set up a checkpoint in Hiran region of central Somalia, some 20km (12 miles) from the border.

The Ethiopian government described the reports as false and said it had no intention of returning to Somalia.

Islamist militias run much of central Somalia and some are loyal to the new President, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Ethiopian troops occupied parts of Somalia for two years after ousting the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from the capital Mogadishu.

The Ethiopian withdrawal was part of a peace deal agreed recently between the government and moderate Islamists.

They left behind African Union peacekeeping troops and Somali government soldiers in Mogadishu but analysts have said that force is unlikely to be able to keep the advancing Islamists at bay.

"The Ethiopian forces are violating the basic integrity of Somalia again and they entered the Hiran region only days after their government announced its complete withdrawal from the country," UIC commander Ahmed Osman Abdalla told AFP news agency.

Addis Ababa has said it is keeping a heavy troop presence on the border in case of threats to its security.(ANA)

FA/ANA/03 February 2009---


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