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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Somalia: Violence Continues As Ethiopian Troops Begin Pullout

3 January 2009

The Ethiopian army has began withdrawing its troops from Somalia's capital after a two-year military occupation, but the violence that triggered the invasion continues, Radio Garowe reports.

More than 20 military trucks, including transport and armored vehicles, left bases in Mogadishu and headed southwards to the town of Afgoye, in neighboring Lower Shabelle region.

Bereket Simon, special adviser to Ethiopia's prime minister, told the Reuters news agency that the Ethiopian army's withdrawal from Somalia as entered the "implementation phase."

Ethiopia had previously announced plans to withdraw its troops from Somalia, citing international negligence and a peace pact between the Somali interim government and an Islamist-led opposition faction.

Civilian deaths

At least 11 people, including two Ethiopian soldiers, were killed after a Mogadishu roadside bomb and the subsequent gunfire, witnesses said.

Four people - two Ethiopian soldiers and two civilians - died in the initial explosion, which was followed by a barrage of gunfire.

"The Ethiopians [soldiers] started killing people indiscriminately," said witness Omar Moallim, a local businessman.

Somali police official Col. Ali Hassan confirmed to Radio Garowe that the deadly explosion targeted Ethiopian troops, but "killed many civilians."

Ethiopian troops have been accused of committing war crimes in Somalia, where they have killed civilians as retaliation for the insurgents' deadly attacks.

Assassinations

Four people were killed in separate incidents in Mogadishu and Baidoa, the Somali government's two remaining strongholds in the southern regions.

An individual identified as Abdullahi Ali Egal was shot and killed in Baidoa overnight Thursday, local officials said.

Mr. Egal was a member of the national reconciliation committee that organized the National Reconciliation Conference, held in Mogadishu in July 2007.

Separately, a member of Mogadishu's local government was killed by two young men armed with pistols inside a tea shop in the capital, witnesses said.

In yet another assassination, a Somali prison official was gunned down in broad daylight in Mogadishu. Witnesses said the killers took the victim's personal gun with them.

Sheikh Mohamed Elbur, a local religious personality, was killed by unidentified gunmen in the outskirts of Mogadishu on Friday night.

Much speculation followed the sheikh's killing, but Sheikh Abdirahman Abu-Qadi, spokesman for Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a, a Sufi group, blamed the killing on Al Shabaab insurgents.

Ethiopia's military intervention in Somalia in 2006 has largely failed to stem widespread violence, kidnappings and piracy.

Copyright © 2009 Garowe Online. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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