Ethiopian troops seen entering Somalia

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN
Associated Press
MOGADISHU, Somalia — About 100 Ethiopian troops crossed the border into Somalia today, witnesses said, the latest sign that Ethiopia might try to bolster this country's weak interim government as an Islamic militia gains power.
Meanwhile, this afternoon al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden issued a message on the Internet warning the world community against sending troops into Somalia.
The troops entered the border town of Beled-Hawo in eight military vehicles, Husein Ali Burale, a well-known traditional elder, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Several other witnesses also confirmed the report.
"The commander of the troops asked the people of the town to show calm and not worry about their presence," said Ali Mohamed Siyad, a resident of Beled-Hawo. Attempts to reach Ethiopian officials were not immediately successful.
Thousands of Somalis have taken to the streets in recent weeks to denounce alleged interference by Ethiopia, their longtime enemy. The Islamic militia said last month that 300 Ethiopian soldiers had entered the country.
But the president of Somalia's secular interim government, Abdullahi Yusuf, is allied with Ethiopia and has asked for its support. Ethiopia has intervened in Somalia in the past to prevent Islamic extremists from taking power.
The interim government is internationally recognized but wields no real power outside its base in Baidoa, 90 miles from Mogadishu. And the increasingly power of the Islamic militia, which controls of most of southern Somalia, has further marginalized the U.N.-backed government.
Earlier today, a member of the interim government urged the Islamic militia to compromise. Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adam, speaker of the Parliament, spoke during celebrations marking the 46th anniversary of Somalia's independence from Italy.
"If both sides compromise, we can share what we have," Adam said.
The developments in the Horn of Africa are of particular concern in the West, which fears Somalia could be another Taliban Afghanistan — a lawless land offering terrorists a base from which to strike. Washington has accused the Islamic militia of harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for deadly 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
On Friday, bin Laden described Somalia as a battleground in his global war on the United States.
Mogadishu resident Sacido Moalim, a mother of eight, said the bin Laden tape concerned her.
"Bin Laden wants that Somalia becomes a safe haven for terrorists. He himself may want to come here. We do not want that Americans become our enemies," she said.
In the weeks since the Islamists took over last month, there were signs their rule might be moderate: The group agreed to recognize the interim government and stop all military action.
But last weekend, it replaced a relatively moderate cleric as its leader with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on the U.S. terrorist watch list as a suspected al-Qaida collaborator.
The militia then said it would not consult anybody about its rule.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, carving much of the country into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law.
Many of the capital's residents applauded the Islamic group for ridding Mogadishu of the widely despised warlords — some of whom sit in the interim government. But there are concerns about the future under the fundamentalist militia.
Today, one of the warlords who had been keeping a low profile since the Islamic militia took over announced plans to hand over all his weapons to the Islamists. Omar Mohamud Mohamed said he was surrendering nine vehicles and many guns.
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Associated Press writers Mohamed Sheik Nor and Salad Duhul contributed to this report.

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