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An Ethiopian military leader is denying that the recent withdrawal of Ethiopian Troops from central Somalia’s Hiran region has created a vacuum in the fight against Al-shabaab.
During an exclusive interview with Capital in his Mogadishu office, Brigadier General Gebremeskel Gebregzeaber, Chief Commander for Sector Three of the African Union’s peace keeping mission said the changes will be ineffectual and have nothing to do with the domestic situation in Ethiopia.
“The number of Ethiopian troops coming home from Somalia is very small and does not create a big vacuum in the process of creating a stable Somalia.The Somali police that we trained are securing people’s lives by filling the places that we withdrew from.’’
“We have evidence that Al-Shabaab’s influence is decreasing despite the rare bombing or sporadic gunfire. We have killed many of their fighters so not only are the numbers of this terrorist group diminishing but they are loosing the people’s trust as well because they have been looting and harassing their own people.”
Capital asked the General if the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops had any connection to the current state of emergency put in place by the Ethiopian’ government.
“Absolutely, No! There is no war in Ethiopia; there is only throwing stones and burning companies and trucks with gas. The recent withdraw has nothing to do with this. We are still in Somalia and we will fight the terrorist group until a sustainable peace occurs. They are our close neighbor and if they are in trouble we are in trouble,” he said.
“I do not know the reason for the withdrawal, only higher government officials know the reason, what I know is we are doing the best we can in Baidoa and we will secure the peace by eliminating Al- Shabaab.’’
Back in October Ethiopian troops which were not Under the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) left el-Ali village in Hiran region which allowed Al-Shabaab fighters to control the place immediately.
Rumors then spread that Al-Shabaab would gain power over many areas currently controlled by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali central government.
Close to 4,000 Ethiopian peacekeepers now are in charge of the city of Baidoa which is the tactical headquarters of sector 3 AU mission which also brings together Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions. Some troops are also located in parts of Hiran, which borders Ethiopia with Somalia.
Al-Shabaab controls most of Somalia’s southern and central regions.
Between 2011 and 2012, Al Shabaab lost much of its territory, including the port of Kismayo, which provided the group with supplies and significant revenue. However, Al Shabaab has continued to control many rural areas in several regions, including the Juba, Bay, Shabelle, and Bakol regions. Al Shabaab has also become increasingly present in Somalia’s northern regions, along the Golis Mountains and in urban areas of Puntland.
Besides its activities in Somalia, Al Shabaab has conducted attacks in Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti. The group was also implicated in a failed bombing in Ethiopia.