Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Saturday, 29 August 2009 15:47 UK

Ethiopia 'seizes' town in Somalia

By Will Ross
BBC News, Nairobi

Ethiopian soldiers in Mogadishu
Ethiopian troops ousted Islamist forces from Mogadishu in 2006

Ethiopian troops have seized control of a strategic town in Somalia, eyewitnesses say.

Belet Wayne is near the Ethiopian border and the Ethiopian troops are reported to have taken control of the town without a fight.

Ethiopian troops intervened in Somalia in 2006 and removed Islamists from power. They officially left Somalia in January as part of a peace deal.

The Ethiopian government has denied that their troops have returned.

In recent months, there have been frequent reports that the Ethiopian soldiers are back.

While eyewitnesses say they have taken control of the town of Belet Wayne, this has been denied by the government spokesman in Addis Ababa, Bereket Simon.

Rebellion fears

Ethiopia does not want hardline Islamist insurgents in charge of territory near the common border.

It fears that this could fuel the rebellion in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia which is inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

Recently there were reports that a large number of Ethiopian soldiers had entered Somalia at a time when Islamist forces had taken control of part of Belet Wayne.

Eyewitnesses say that as the Ethiopians moved in the Islamist troops left the town without a fight.

In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia and defeated the Islamists who had seized control of much of the country.

This caused a great deal of resentment in Somalia and helped the Islamists gain support.

They returned with a more extremist agenda and in recent months have been fighting the interim government for control of the country - a conflict which has forced more than a million people to flee their homes.

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