Somali Islamists eye possible Ethiopia pull out
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked insurgents, on the back foot after months of losses, are eyeing a potential withdrawal of arch-foe Ethiopia in the volatile southwest, raising security and humanitarian concerns.
Heavily armed Shebab fighters swept into the town of Hudur, capital of Bakool region, just hours after Ethiopia’s surprise withdrawal from the town on Sunday.
Hot on the heels of the Ethiopians — the strongest military power in the southwest region ever since their November 2011invasion — fled allied Somali militia forces and a column of some 2,000 terrified civilians.
Security sources say the withdrawal from Hudur could signal a wider pull out of Ethiopian forces including from the key city of Baidoa, warning that if this happens, the 17,000-strong African Union mission (AMISOM) would be hugely overstretched.
“Everything suggests Ethiopia is determined to withdraw from Baidoa” in coming days, a security source told AFP.
Ethiopia, which has repeatedly said it wishes to withdraw, is reportedly frustrated that its requests for AMISOMtroops to take over its positions have been ignored.
“The Ethiopians have been talking for quite a while of how much they want to leave…so far it was seen more as a posture,” said a source close to AM