Sunday, March 24, 2013
Ethiopian withdrawal has forced AMISOM and Somali government to take steps to fill in the potential security vacuum.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Thursday said it was
prepared for an eventual Ethiopian troop withdrawal from areas in the
south of the country, barely a week after Al-Shabaab seized a town
vacated by Ethiopian forces.
Thousands of African Union peace keepers are deployed in Somalia to
support the internationally recognized federal government fight off the
insurgents of the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab.
The radical group’s fighters recaptured the southern town of Hudur on
Sunday following the surprise withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and Somali
government forces in the region.
“We have in place contingent measures to ensure that areas in Bay and
Bakool where AMISOM are co-located with Somali National Security Forces
remain stable and secure in the event of further Ethiopian troop
withdrawals,” said General Gutti, the AMISOM Force Commander.
The militant group has since took over couple of smaller towns in the
southern Bakool region where small contingent of AMISOM peacekeepers
are deployed along with Ethiopian troops who crossed into Somalia to
drive Al-Shabaab insurgents from regions of Bay and Bakool along the two
countries common frontier.
The Al-Shabaab fighters executed a well-known local Imam following their capture of Hudur.
The group reportedly beheaded the prominent cleric after accusing him
of working with Somali government and Ethiopian troops in the town.
Following the Al-Shabaab gains in southern Somalia reports of
Ethiopian plan for a full withdrawal from the region emerged and the
possibility of Al-Shabaab takeover of the region forced AMISOM and
Somali government to take steps to fill in the potential security
AMISOM reassured Somalis that they were “closely monitoring
developments following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Hudur”
and both Somali government and AMISOM were trying to “re- establish a
security presence in the area”.
AMISOM Force Commander General Gutti said:
“We strongly condemn the beheading of the prominent cleric in Hudur
by the Al Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab terror group and are working with
the Somali National Security Forces to ensure that security is restored
to the area as soon as possible.”
“We are conducting a review of our troop deployments (in Bay and
Bakool regions) and in Hiiran and remain confident that there will be
sufficient coverage,” General Gutti said.
AMISOM urged members of any armed opposition groups to “lay down
their arms and turn themselves over” to the Federal Government of
Somalia and AMISOM.
They said those turning themselves in “will be treated fairly and in accordance with International conventions”.
It is not clear if the military groups will head to the call.