Ethiopia refuses Somali forces involved in fighting in Tigray
The Ethiopian government has denied that Somali soldiers fought alongside federal troops in the ongoing conflict in its region of Tigray.
On January 18, the head of Somalia’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee called on Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to investigate complaints from family members that their sons had disappeared during the fighting in Ethiopia. Somalia’s former deputy spy chief said in an interview this week with local broadcaster GoobJoog TV that hundreds of Somali soldiers may have died in the clashes.
The use of Somali troops would provide further evidence that the war in Tigray, which the Ethiopian government has called a national problem, has turned into a regional confrontation. Last year, Tigray leaders claimed troops from neighboring Eritrea were also involved in the conflict, prompting the United States to call for their withdrawal.
“We have seen reports of Eritrean troops entering Ethiopia,” Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dina Mufti said in a statement. “We are also seeing similar reports of Somali soldiers participating in the same campaign. Both of these claims are false and unfounded. “
The involvement of Somali troops, if confirmed, could result from a tripartite agreement signed between the leaders of Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea in 2018 aimed at strengthening regional security and economic ties, a said Omar Mahmood, senior Somalia analyst for the International Crisis Group.
“One of the consequences of this situation has been the Eritrean training of Somali troops,” Mahmood said. “These are the troops who would have been present during the fighting in Tigray and who would have suffered many losses.”
Somali Information Minister Osman Dubbe told reporters in Mogadishu earlier that reports of the disappearance of its fighters were “fabricated” for political reasons. Somalia is preparing to hold presidential elections next month.
The Ethiopian government and the dissident Tigray People’s Liberation Front have been at war since November 4. Many senior TPLF leaders remain at large, although several key party members – including four of its nine executive committee members – have been captured or killed in the past two weeks.
The conflict has threatened to spread to neighboring Sudan. Earlier this month, she and Ethiopia exchanged charges of mutual border violation, sparking deadly clashes around al-Fashqa, an area of fertile farmland that straddles the two nations.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, speaking Thursday during a trip to Sudan for talks with the transitional government, called on the two countries to avoid escalating tensions. He is due to arrive in Ethiopia later today.