Ethiopian troops cross over to Somalia in pursuit of Al-Shabaab
DOLOW, Somalia - Columns of Ethiopian soldiers crossed over to Somalia, eyewitnesses have confirmed, at the latest move which could boost security cooperation between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa, given the recent deal that President Hassan Sheikh signed with PM Abiy Ahmed.
According to eyewitnesses, the soldiers, whose number could not be independently ascertained, crossed over from Ethiopia's Somali region to Somalia through Dolow town in the troubled Gedo region within the Jubaland state of the federal republic of Somalia.
The soldiers, donning Ethiopian army garments, are believed to be pursuing Al-Shabaab militants within the vicinity of the border according to multiple sources. The move comes a few days after the Ethiopian troops flushed Al-Shabaab militants from strategic towns in the Somali region.
Devastating was the Al-Shabaab raid in Ethiopia that the Somali regional forces had to ask for reinforcement from the national army. Ethiopia's senior army officers confirmed that over 200 Al-Shabaab militants were killed in Ethiopia after they crossed over.
Some sources also confirmed that to neutralize Al-Shabaab, the national army of Ethiopia installed a buffer zone deep into Somalia, a move which could explain the latest movement of troops along the Ethiopia-Somalia border. It's not clear if Somalia is aware of the incident.
Insiders in Ethiopia's army said the move was aimed at degrading Al-Shabaab, with fears that the militants have trained many Ethiopians to cause instability in the country. Ethiopia is also facing challenges in the Tigray region and there are concerns that Al-Shabaab could take advantage.
This comes a day after Somalia president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and PM Abiy Ahmed agreed to a "united front against Al-Shabab, their common enemy". President Hassan Sheikh has been categorical that his administration will ensure the militants are completely deflated.
Ethiopia is also a major security stakeholder in Somalia having deployed over 4,000 soldiers who are serving in the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia. The soldiers have been helping to defeat the militants mainly in the Southwest and Jubaland states of Somalia.