Heavy fighting flared up on Saturday morning between Somali militiamen in a remote village in central Hiran region residents said.
The attack happened in Bur-Gabo Village as the Ethiopian army convoys left bases at the border town of Fer Fer and were reportedly en route to a base outside of the town of Beletwein when Somali rebels attacked.
Residents reported that the fighting, in which both sides used different kinds of weapons, was one of the heaviest in the region since Ethiopian forces entered Somalia in late 2006 to bolster the country’s weak government.
Sheikh Abdirahim Isse, a spokesperson for the Islamic courts, confirmed the clashes and claimed the Ethiopians had suffered heavy losses.
« There was heavy fighting this morning and the Ethiopian forces suffered huge losses. Many of them were killed and four armed vehicles destroyed, » Isse told Shabelle by phone from an unknown location.
no independent confirmation on the fighting’s casualities are availible.
The Ethiopian army, which rarely comments about such incidents, has pledged to pull out once the United Nations deploys a peacekeeping force to bolster an embattled African Union peacekeeping force confined to Mogadishu.
Since they were ousted from power last year, the Islamists have waged a bitter guerrilla war, targeting Ethiopian, government and African Union targets almost daily.
According to several international rights groups and aid agencies, the fighting has left at least 6 000 civilians dead and displaced hundreds of thousands in the last 12 months alone.
On June 9, the Somali government and its political opposition signed agreements, including a ceasefire scheduled to enter into force within 30 days, but a radical wing of the Islamist fighters called Shebab has refused to recognise it.
Instead, it has vowed to keeping fighting until Ethiopian forces pull out of Somalia, a nation that has been plagued by an uninterrupted civil war since the 1991 overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre.
The African Union has deployed some 2 600 peacekeepers in Mogadishu but the contingent on the ground still falls far short of the 8 000 troops pledged by the continental body and has failed to stem the violence.
At least 2,6-million Somalis are facing hunger due to acute food shortages spurred by a prolonged drought, insecurity and high inflation. United Nations famine monitors have warned that the figure could hit 3,5-million by year’s end.
By: Abdinasir Mohamed Guled