January 02, 2007

2 January 2007

"We are on our own" Meles-

US skeptical about Ethiopia’s operation in Somalia
- An estimated 10m Birr operation cost so far

An apparent reaction to media reports that Ethiopia was being supported by the US and fighting the latter's proxy war in Somalia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Thursday that Ethiopia is carrying out the operation on its own.

On the contrary, he said, the Americans were very skeptical about Ethiopia's military involvement in Somalia.

In a press conference that he gave in his office for the second time in a week, Meles told journalists that the US had in no way supported his government in this war that has already cost the country an estimated 10 million birr.

"The [Americans] have not in any way been involved in the military operation in Somalia. From the very beginning they told us that if we must fight that we would be on our own. We had no illusions about that and we did not expect anything from the United States. We are on our own in Somalia."
However, he said the long standing arrangement between the two countries to share intelligence on terrorist activities still stands.

Meles said that Ethiopia's mission in Somalia was now 85% complete and expected his troops to be out of Somalia in the coming few weeks.

According to him, what remained is to pursue the hard core elements of the Shabbab, and of the extremist leadership of the courts, and the Eritrean troops that are fleeing.
In a related news, forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) on Thursday took control of parts of Mogadishu.

Somalia's interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi was expected to enter the capital Mogadishu Friday.
Thursday he met local clan leaders outside the capital to discuss the city's handover.
The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) melted away abandoning the city and large numbers of arms.
As soon as Mogadishu locals realized that its court administrators had fled, the city was hit with lawlessness and looting.

The UN-backed government has imposed a three-month marshal law.

Ethiopian troops as usual have been positioned outside the city.

On Thursday, a six-month old strict rule in Mogadishu collapsed as swiftly as it had been established.
The might that the UIC flaunted in past months seemed superficial as its leadership fled farther southwards to the port town of Kismayo.

In the few days after December 19, the Union of Islamic Courts suffered a heavy defeat when it lost close to three thousand fighters that it had lined up.

Most of those were Eritreans and fighters from nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and some even carried British passports.

The Shura-Supreme Council of the Union of Islamic Courts was dissolved.
The Supreme leader of the courts and one time Al-Ittihad commander Hassan Dahir Aweys headed to his home town Kismayo early Thursday morning.

The executive leader of the courts Sheik Sharif Ahmed Sharif said that his forces were in a strategic retreat and that they were going to fight against the "invading Ethiopian forces."

Most UIC militia have laid down their arms and are submitting themselves to clan administrators.
There are fears, however, that the courts might employ tactics such as hit and run guerilla attacks, suicide bombings and assassination of key figures.

Other analysts however play down the possibility of any significant threat from the UIC as long as such leaders as Aweys, Aiden Hashi Ayro - an Al-Qaeda trained fighter - and Sharif are captured or killed.
Muktar Robow Abu Mansur, one of the leaders of the Shabbab movement, was killed in battle, state media here reported.

Ethiopia, according to Meles, will stay in Somalia until these "hard core elements are accounted for."
As for Ethiopian troops staying in Mogadishu to support the TFG, Meles said on Thursday: “We are discussing what we need to do to make sure Mogadishu does not descend into chaos. We will not let Mogadishu burn.”
Sources:The Reporter

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