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Sudan Tribune

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Ethiopia deploys more troops to Somali capital

November 3, 2007 (MOGADISHU) — Ethiopia deployed more troops to the Somali capital on Saturday a day after insurgents paraded what they said were the bodies of three Ethiopian soldiers in the streets of Mogadishu, witnesses told AFP.

Several tanks and scores of trucks packed with troops were seen entering Mogadishu, as clan elders warned that the move would spark a “disastrous” upsurge in violence

The deployment comes a day after Shabab, the radical armed wing of the main Somali Islamist movement, displayed the bodies of Ethiopian troops they had killed in nothern Mogadishu.

“I have counted about 55 military trucks and four tanks” heading into Mogadishu, said Mohamed Sheik Hassan, a resident of Afgoye outside the western fringe of the capital.

In Mogadishu, an AFP correspondent saw 25 trucks enter the city’s southern region, while a witness who requested anonymity said he counted more than 60 Ethiopian trucks and six tanks.

Another witness, Farah Mohamed, said some of the Ethiopian troops were heading to northern Mogadishu where the Ethiopian soldiers were killed in an artillery duel on Friday.

It was not clear whether the fresh deployment was linked to the display of bodies.

Elders from the Hawiye clan, the dominant clan in the capital, confirmed that more Ethiopian troops had entered the city and warned of bloody consequences.

“We express concerns over the mass deployment of the Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu at this time and we call the international community to stop the move by the Ethiopians otherwise it will be disastrous,” they warned in a statement.

“More troops won’t bring peace but will add fuel into the already burning fire,” said the elders, who have been key in negotiating ceasefires in the past.

Nobody from the Ethiopian side would confirm the troop movements in the shattered African nation which Washington fears could become a haven for extremists linked to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.

Ethiopian troops have been venturing deeper into the streets of Islamist bastions in recent days in a bid to break the back of an insurgency that has plagued efforts to stabilise the transitional government for months.

The Ethiopian army came to the rescue of the embattled Somali government last year to oust an Islamist militia that briefly controlled large parts of the country and sought to impose Islamic law.

The Islamic Courts Union was swiftly defeated earlier this year, but its remnants and allied tribes have since waged a guerrilla war against their enemies.

However, the heavy-handed crackdown on the insurgents has also angered many in Mogadishu. Three civilians were killed late last month when Ethiopian troops opened fire on demonstrators protesting against their presence.

The UN refugee agency has said up to 90,000 civilians were displaced in Mogadishu in the fighting, which was “the worst in months.”

The parading of dead Ethiopian troops through the streets of Mogadishu was reminiscent of 1993, when the bodies of US special forces taking part in a doomed operation were torn to pieces and paraded in the streets.

Alarmed by the escalating violence in Mogadishu, 40 aid groups warned of an “unfolding humanitarian catastrophe” in parts of Somalia and said they could no longer meet the country’s growing relief needs.

The fighting is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation which has left 1.5 million — almost one sixth of the population — in need of help.

Bloody clan brawls following the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre escalated into a civil war which continues to defy every peace initiative.