- Title: ETHIOPIA: Ethiopian jets fired missiles on Somali Islamist fighters retreating
- Date: 26th December 2006
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PEOPLE BUYING AND READING NEWSPAPERS
- Embargoed: 10th January 2007 12:00
- Location: Ethiopia
- Country: Ethiopia
- Reuters ID: LVAAA48Q1WRW51489Z2ZN7KRMUTV
- Story Text: Ethiopian jets fired missiles on Somali Islamist fighters retreating on Tuesday, (December 26) from frontlines after a week of war in the Horn of Africa nation.
The strike at Leego, just east of Buur Hakaba, a town recaptured by pro-government forces on Tuesday, would be the third day of air attacks by Ethiopian planes backing the interim Somali government against Mogadishu-based Islamists.
Addis Ababa and Washington say the Islamists, who hold most of southern Somalia after seizing Mogadishu in June, are backed by al Qaeda and by Ethiopia's enemy, Eritrea.
In Addis Ababa, residents welcomed the move and urged their troops to get rid of all the elements that could destabilise their Country.
"Authorities cannot tolerate someone who threatens to invade your territory, the authorities should ask the invader to leave and if he does not listen to you, then you have to defend your country," said a local resident Yared Bogale.
Few people were bothered by the fact that Ethiopia was at war with Islamists from Somalia and even offered to give a hand if need be. They emphasized the fact that everyone had a right to defend their country from aggressors and making sure they were kicked out.
"You cannot close your eyes when your country is being invaded, young and old have to stand up and protect their country from the enemy, I think the government was right by fighting the Islamists," another resident Ato Dawit Kabede added.
Thousands of Somali Islamist fighters crammed into camouflage-painted trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns headed out from Mogadishu and elsewhere to reinforce comrades-in-arms beaten back from frontlines around the government base Baidoa.
A week of heavy artillery and mortar duels between Islamists and the Ethiopian-backed secular government has spiralled into open war that both sides say has killed hundreds. Diplomats fear the fighting will draw in Eritrea on the side of the Islamists.
Meanwhile, Somalians expressed their fear of the attacks.
"Today every one in Mogadishu is worried and sorrowful, because of Ethiopian war planes attacking Somalia and Mogadishu airport," Mogadishu resident Mohamed Ahmed Hussein said.
"We are very sad because of the strike by Ethiopian troops, because we have been in conflict for the last 16 years and war. This time we feel a little bit of peace," another Mogadishu resident, Haji Muhyidiin Sheikh Mohamed added.
The Islamists claim broad popular support and say their main aim is to restore order to Somalia under sharia law after years of anarchy since the 1991 ouster of dictator Siad Barre.
Addis Ababa fears a hardline Muslim state on its doorstep and accuses the SICC of wanting to annex Ethiopia's ethnically Somali Ogaden region.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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