Ethiopia begins Somalia withdrawal after invasion
Ethiopia has begun withdrawing its forces from Somalia, after invading the country two years ago to support the United Nations-backed transitional federal government, Bloomberg reported.
"The withdrawal process has started," Bereket Simon, adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said by phone today from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. "This is a process, not a single event. It's a troop movement and we will finalize it as quickly as possible."
U.S.-backed Ethiopian soldiers invaded Somalia in December 2006, ousting an Islamist government and re-installing the deposed government the following month. Fighting since then has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with an estimated 3.2 million people in need of food aid and 1 million people displaced from their homes, according to the UN.
The seas off Somalia have become the world's most dangerous for piracy and at least 500 refugees have died or gone missing this year attempting to flee across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.
Residents of Afgoye, 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of the capital, Mogadishu, saw at least 24 Ethiopian trucks full of soldiers and their belongings leaving Mogadishu and heading towards Ethiopia.
"They waved goodbye to people as they passed," Ali Madobow Direi, an informal trader in Afgoye, said by phone today from his road-side stall. "The people around here stopped all their business activities fearing possible attacks, but after the Ethiopians departed, everything returned to normal."
Under an agreement signed in October, the Ethiopian forces will be replaced by peacekeepers from the African Union and militias loyal to Somalia's government and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.