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13 Jan 2009 07:23
Ethiopian soldiers supporting Somalia’s Western-backed interim government quit their main bases in Mogadishu on Tuesday, witnesses said, prompting celebrations among many residents.
Local man Hussein Awale said hundreds of people gathered at dawn at one military facility in the north of the capital that was abandoned overnight.
“We were chanting praise be to Allah, who made the troops leave our area,” he told Reuters.
Ethiopian commanders could not immediately be reached for comment. But an Islamist opposition spokesperson said he had been told all Ethiopian soldiers would leave the city on Tuesday.
“Ethiopian troops have left their strategic main bases in Mogadishu and the others will withdraw today [Tuesday],” said Suleiman Olad Roble of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.
Islamist rebels have been battling the government and Ethiopian forces for the last two years since Addis Ababa sent soldiers to drive a sharia courts group from Mogadishu.
More than 16 000 civilians have been killed in the fighting, and a million more have been forced from their homes.
Fed up by rifts in the government and the cost of the operation, Addis Ababa has now decided to withdraw its estimated 3 000 troops.—Reuters
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