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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Ethiopia 'trained us to terrorise Somalia'
Ethiopian soldiers during war with Eritrea in 1999
Ethiopia denies that its soldiers are in Somalia
Dozens of Somali former military officials have said they were trained and armed by Ethiopia in its attempts to destabilise the Somalia's transitional government.

The group of 38 former military officials held a press conference in a North Mogadishu hotel, stating that they have now restored their loyalty to Somalia.


The Ethiopians taught us new explosive devices

Major Birreh
Ethiopia has consistently denied any involvement in the Somali conflict and accuses the Transitional National Government in Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own problems.

Major Abdurahman Hajji Mursal, best known as Major Birreh, said that Ethiopia had approached them through Somali warlords shortly after the TNG was established.

"We were 145 soldiers and six of us senior officials who went onto the journey to Ethiopia," he said.

"We first went on a convoy of landcruisers organised by Engineer Mohamed Hussein Addow and Muse Sudi Yalahow in north Mogadishu and we crossed into Ethiopia from Ferfer village of Hiran region," said Major Birreh.

Military interests

Major Birreh said that the training had taken place in the town of Godey.

"We were professional military men, but the Ethiopians taught us new explosive devices such us modern landmines and their usage in fighting and terrorising urban areas," said Major Birreh.

Somali women and children outside their huts in Mandera, Kenya
Somali refugees say they saw Ethiopian troops attack the town of Bulo Hawo
"We've been taught how to attach these explosives in high-rise buildings, bridges and even laying them down in the tarmac roads so that just the 145 of us could terrorise the entire city of Mogadishu," he said.

Major Birreh said that he and the other military officers had believed that the TNG of President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan would not look after the army's interests and this was why they agreed to work with Ethiopia.

In his press conference, more than 10 other former military officials including Captain Hussein Ahmed Ismael, Lieutenant Abdullahi Omar Ahmed and others were standing side-by-side with Major Birreh.

No money

Major Birreh said six Ethiopian officials have been training them including Colonel Hamsala and Colonel Walto who was responsible of the entire 45-days long training.

"These military officials never spoke to us about politics, but merely explained about how best these various explosive devices could be used in the urban fighting," he said.

President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
President Salat says Ethiopia wants to bring him down
It seems that Major Birreh and his colleagues have not been really touched by any sort of patriotism, but instead have fallen out with the warlords and their Ethiopia backers.

Major Birreh said Ethiopia had given them nothing except for food and their hotel expenses.

"But they promised us weapons and ammunition and when these consignments arrived, the warlords Muse Sudi and Engineer Addow did not give us anything," he said.

Major Birreh's groups is now engaged in talks with the government and the other military men who went to Ethiopia, with a view to persuading all 145 military men to switch sides and support the TNG.


Politics

Terrorist haven?

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16 May 02 | Africa
15 May 02 | Africa
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