Tuesday, 19 May 2009 (BBC)– Ethiopian military forces have crossed back into Somalia, barely three months after leaving, witnesses told the BBC.
Their reported return comes as Islamist militants like al-Shabab continue to seize towns from the fragile Western-back transitional government.
One resident said he spotted Ethiopian troops in Kalabeyr, a key junction that links southern, central and northern Somalia to the Ethiopian border.
The Ethiopian army withdrew in January after UN-backed peace talks.
Its troops entered Somalia in 2006 to help oust Islamist forces from the capital Mogadishu.
On Monday, Ethiopian government spokesman Berekat Simon told the BBC that despite the recent Islamist advance, “there is nothing that has become a present and immediate danger to Ethiopia”.
“And so it does not prompt our intervention.”
Kalabeyr resident Fadumo Du’ale told the BBC’s Mohamed Olad Hassan on Tuesday: “They have crossed the border late last night and they are here now. They look to be stationing here.”
“ They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move ”
Farah Ahmed Adaan Bus driver
The town lies 22km (14 miles) from the Somali-Ethiopian border.
Another resident, Tabane Abdi Ali, told the BBC: “We recognize them because of their military uniform and the language they were speaking.”
Bus driver Farah Ahmed Adaan told our correspondent he had spotted “a lot” of Ethiopian troops with 12 military vehicles.
“Some of them were digging trenches while others were guarding the whole area,” he said.
“They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move.”
On Sunday, Islamist militias took the key town of Jowhar from government forces.
This is the home town of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and now that the country’s rainy season has arrived, the town is also the only passable route into central Somalia from the capital.