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Monday, June 28, 1999 Published at 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK

World: Africa

Ethiopia 'captures' Somali town

The Ethiopians have advanced from Luq to Garba Harre

Ethiopian forces are reported to have captured a southern Somali town - apparently as part of an ongoing campaign to flush out Ethiopian rebels who are believed to be based in Somalia.

The reports say hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers supported by armoured vehicles met little resistance from the Somali National Front (SNF) faction which had previously controlled the town of Garba Harre in the Gedo region.

Correspondents say that in recent months Ethiopia and Eritrea have extended the war between them by supporting opposing factions in Somalia, and that the latest Ethiopian advances have brought much of southern Somalia under their control.

The attack on the town was apparently launched from Luq, a town 90km (55 miles) further north, which Ethiopia captured last month with the help of a pro-Ethiopian Somali faction.

Repeated incursions

Ethiopian forces have crossed into Somalia several times since 1996, to pursue members of militia groups which Addis Ababa believes are using bases in Somalia to launch attacks on Ethiopia.

The Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP) has pledged its support for Ethiopia and its armed forces, according to a report on Ethiopian radio.

The radio quoted an SPDP statement which outlined efforts being made by people in the Somali region to destroy "anti-people organisations", such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Al-Ittihad (an armed Islamist group based in Somalia) who were siding with Eritrea.

The SNF, led by Hussein Aideed, is among the Somali factions which are reported to have the support of Eritrea, which is currently engaged in a bitter territorial struggle with Ethiopia.

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