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Monday, July 12, 1999 Published at 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK

World: Africa

Oromo forces 'on the move' in Somalia

Ethiopia and Eritrea are both thought to have troops in Somalia

Reports from Somalia say at least 400 heavily armed members of the Oromo Liberation Front have arrived in the sout-west Shabelle region.

The Oromo forces, who are backing Eritrea in its war against Ethiopia, are said to have been escorted in a convoy by forces of the militia leader Mohammed Hussein Aideed.

They are reported to have gone to the port of Faah in north Mogadishu a few days before.

Correspondents say the convoy is trying to make its way to the south western part of Ethiopia where Oromo Liberation Front forces operate.

One faction leader - Musse Suudi Yalaho - has condemned Hussein Aideed for assisting the Oromo forces and said he would be held responsible for any reprisal attack on Somalia.

Defiant Aideed

[ image: Aideed:  Ethiopia must go]
Aideed: Ethiopia must go
Meanwhile Hussein Aideed says he is determined to throw Ethiopian troops out of the country.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency in Nairobi, he says he is determined to win back the towns - including Baidoa - which he lost last month to a rival militia he believes was backed by Ethiopian troops.

"We will never accept the loss of one inch of our land," said General Aideed.

"The regions which Ethiopia is occupying we definitely have a policy to defend, to remove them and take them out of our country."

General Aideed believes the Ethiopian troops are backing his rivals because Aideed's Somali National Alliance is supportive of the Oromo Liberation Front.

The Oromo Liberation Front is allegedly being armed by Eritrea, which is at war with Ethiopia over the disputed border between the two countries.

However, General Aideed denied receiving huge arms shipments from Eritrea.

Ethiopia has denied having troops in Somalia, but correspondents say that there is little doubt that Ethiopia has sent guns and soldiers into Somalia as an extension of its own border war. It is less clear how many troops Eritrea may have in Somalia.

Call for unity

In the interview, Hussein Aideed also dismissed the idea of giving Somalia's major clans substantial autonomy in the areas they control.

"This is not practical. Somalis are one ethnic group, united in one language," said Aideed.

"It is our destiny to have a united government. It is the will of the Somali people."

Hussein Aideed took over leadership of the Somali National Alliance militia following the death of his father Mohammed Farah Aideed in 1996.


Last week a senior official of the Somalia-based Islamic fundamentalist group, Al-Ittihad Al-Islam, was shot dead - sparking accusations of Ethiopian involvement.

Eyewitnesses said the official, Colonel Abdullahi Irad, was attacked outside a mosque in the Somali capital Mogadishu by several gunmen who fired automatic weapons from a taxi.

He died later of his injuries in hospital.

The shooting took place in a part of south Mogadishu controlled by Hussein Aideed.

A BBC correspondent in Mogadishu says there is a widespread feeling that Colonel Irad's attackers were backed by Ethiopia.

Al-Ittihad has made raids into Ethiopia with the aim of seizing control of the Harerge region, also known as Zone Five, which has a large ethnic Somali population.

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