MOGADISHU, Somalia Jan 15 (Garowe Online) – The last remaining soldiers from the Ethiopian army withdrew from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu overnight Wednesday, leading to reconciliation efforts among Islamists, Radio Garowe reports.
Hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers and armored trucks rolled south of the capital, as cheerful residents watched the tanks and military equipment that incited one of the bloodiest rebellions in Somali history.
“There is not a single Ethiopian soldier in Mogadishu today,” said Abdi Haji Gobdon, spokesman for the country’s fractured Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Mogadishu residents toured bases vacated by the withdrawing Ethiopian army, which has been deployed in Mogadishu since late 2006.
Fighters loyal to Islamist factions immediately seized control of the bases.
However, the Al Shabaab faction has downplayed the significance of capturing empty bases but has vowed to attack African Union peacekeepers, who assumed control of the Villa Somalia presidential compound following the Ethiopian pullout.
Rival Islamist leaders have reportedly spoken on the phone with each other about reconciling differences after the Djibouti peace process divided the Islamist movement in mid-2008.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Djibouti-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) faction, has secretly met with delegates from Eritrea-based ARS hardliners in Dubai, sources said.
Zakariye Mohamud Haji, a member of ARS-Eritrea, told reporters the meetings focused on “establishing a united position” following the pullout of Ethiopian armed forces.
Inside sources said Sheikh Sharif has spoken directly on the phone with Sheikh Omar Iman, who chairs the rival ARS-Eritrea faction. The two men had reportedly strengthened ties following the conversation, according to the sources.
Sheikh Iman is a close ally of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who has rejected the Djibouti Agreement signed between the Somali government and Sheikh Sharif, on behalf of ARS-Djibouti.
Mogadishu bases vacated by the Ethiopian army have fallen into the hands of Islamist factions, but there were no reports of violence.
Source: Garowe Online