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Friday, November 24, 2006

Somalia: Ethiopia, Islamists trade threats

MOGADISHU, Somalia Nov 23 (Garowe Online) - On the day Ethiopia’s prime minister introduced a war bill to parliament, Somali Islamists have announced that they are “ready” to defend against any military strike from Ethiopia.

The spokesman for the Mogadishu-based Islamic Courts movement, Sheikh Abdirahim Ali Mudey, said on Thursday that Islamist militia have fortified their positions to defend against what he termed as “Ethiopian aggression.”

Mudey’s comments came two hours after Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian leader, introduced a bill to Ethiopian legislators that would essentially declare war on Somalia’s Islamists.

Premier Zenawi said that the Islamists are a “real threat” to Ethiopia and that every country has a “right to defend itself” against such threats.

Mudey: Islamists "ready" to defend against Ethiopia
Mudey dismissed Zenawi’s allegation that the Somali Islamists are tied to wanted international terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.

Furthermore, Mudey invited American officials to visit Mogadishu, promising that they would be personally welcomed by the group’s Somali-American foreign affairs chief, Prof. Ibrahim Hassan Addow.

Ethiopia, a regional power, backs the Baidoa-based interim Somali government, whose authority within the country has been significantly limited by the rise of the Islamists.

Analysts fear that the civil war in Somalia could transform into a regional conflict, as foreshadowed by the presence of thousands of troops from Ethiopia and its rival, pro-Islamist Eritrea.
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