Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia

 

Ethiopia's prime minister said his country will pull its troops out of neighbouring Somalia within two weeks after helping the Somali interim government rout Islamists in a two-week war.

"We will stay there for a few days to help the transitional government in preserving stability then we will pull out our troops ... this will take a week or a maximum of two weeks," Meles Zenawi told Al Jazeera television in remarks aired on Friday.

Somali Islamists took control of the capital Mogadishu in June and had imposed sharia law across much of the south. However, they abandoned Mogadishu last week in the face of advancing Ethiopian and government forces. They said their retreat was a tactical one designed to avoid major bloodshed.

Since then, one Ethiopian soldier has been killed in an ambush in the south and a hand grenade was thrown at Ethiopian troops in the capital on Thursday.

Western and African diplomats have called for the urgent deployment of peacekeepers to Somalia as al Qaeda's deputy leader urged defeated Islamists to launch an Iraq-style insurgency against the Ethiopian forces there.

"You must ambush, mine, raid and (carry out) martyrdom campaigns so that you can wipe them out," Ayman al-Zawahri, deputy to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said in his message.

"As happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the world's strongest power was defeated by the campaigns of the mujahideen, troops going to heaven, so its slaves shall be defeated on the Muslim lands of Somalia," he said.

The Somali government wants a foreign peacekeeping force, approved by the United Nations before the war, to be deployed.

Uganda said it was ready to send troops to the country as soon as its parliament approves the plan.