Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Somalia’s interim government categorically denied reports that Ethiopian troops had entered Somalia or moved forces to the Southern province of Gedo.
Speaking to Asharq al Awsat, from the interim government’s headquarters in Baidoa, a senior source said there were no Ethiopian troops in Somalia and pointed out that such military presence would require prior government approval.
However, sources in the Islamic Courts and inhabitants of the Southern province told the local Somali media on Saturday that some 400 Ethiopian soldiers, supported by armored vehicles took up position in the area. The sources added that contact was established between local officials and troop commanders, but nothing was known of the content of the discussions.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Hassan Taher Aweys, head of the Islamic Courts, told Asharq al Awsat, on Saturday, that the Ethiopian military incursion into its neighbour’s territory was ongoing, despite official denials by Ethiopia and the interim Somali government.
He warned of severe consequences if Addis Ababa continued to violate Somali sovereignty.
Accusing U.S President George W. Bush of being ignorant, Aweys called on him to alter what he described as his wrong policy towards Somalia. He also denied “US accusations that funds and weapons were reaching the Islamic Courts from Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea.”
Sheikh Aweys accused the current US administration of launching a publicity campaign to distort the Islamic Courts’ image and tarnish their reputation and achievements to date, after gaining control of the Somali capital.
Denying the Islamic Courts had received aid from outside the country, the president Shura Council said the group’s main source of income was the Somali people.
Aweys warned Washington from attempting to undermine the Islamic Courts’ move to explain its political program to other Arab and Muslim countries.
Yet, the Islamist leader expressed his support for Osama bin Laden’s alleged statement last week, in which he regarded Somalia as an open front against the United States.
‘Yes, we partially agree with what he said. However, there is no relationship between us. We reject foreign presence on our territory and will confront with force anyone who attempts to impose his views on us.”