Meles says Ethiopian troops will soon leave Somalia,accuses Eritrea of kidnapping

April 18, 2012

Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia at the beginning of the year. Meles said the mission has accomplished “very good results” in fighting al-Shabab militants.

He did not provide a timeline for such a withdrawal and handover.

“The aim of our involvement was to aide the (Somali) transitional government and help weaken Shabab insurgents. And it has been successful,” Meles told the country’s parliament.

Meles said Ethiopian forces have met little military resistance in Somalia, although al-Shabab has claimed to have carried out several deadly attacks against the Ethiopian troops.

He also told parliament that Ethiopia would not become involved in a war with archrival Eritrea. Last month Ethiopian troops moved into neighboring Eritrea and attacked three military camps in response to militant attacks on tourists inside Ethiopia.

He also accused Eritrea on Tuesday of abducting dozens of Ethiopian miners from the country’s northwest, in a potential escalation of tension between the arch-enemies.

Ethiopian troops crossed into the Red Sea state last month and attacked what they said were military bases used by rebels to stage raids, including a January attack that killed five Western tourists in Ethiopia’s remote Afar region.

These attacks were the first on Eritrean soil that Ethiopia has admitted to since the end of a devastating 1998-2000 border war, sparking concern that their unresolved frontier spat could escalate into a full-scale war.

“They [Eritrean government] recently kidnapped more than 100 young miners who were mining gold in our country’s northwest. And in the northeast, they killed some tourists and kidnapped others,” Meles said, the latter referring to the January raid.

“We have taken proportional measures in both locations,” he told lawmakers in response to a question on relations with Eritrea.

Meles did not specify when and exactly where the abductions in the country’s northwest Tigray region took place, nor the measures his country had subsequently taken.

Eritrean officials were not immediately available for comment, but they often dismiss their rivals’ allegations as a ploy to harm Eritrea’s reputation.

Ethiopia routinely accuses Asmara of supporting Ethiopian separatist groups. It blamed an Afar rebel movement for the kidnapping of Westerners in its northern Afar region in 2007, and again for the attack in the same area earlier this year.