Ethiopia denied on Saturday it had sent soldiers into Somalia, a day after residents reported seeing heavily armed troops from the neighbouring Horn of Africa nation in at least two different regions. Ethiopia’s head of government information, Bereket Simon, told reporters the reports were being fabricated by Islamist rebels to try and muster popular support for their battle to topple the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

ETHIOPIA“Ethiopia is defending its border. We have no intention of going back into Somalia. When we decide to enter Somalia we will tell the world that we have decided to enter based on our national interest,” he said. Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in late 2006 to oust an Islamist movement from the capital in which Ahmed played a leading role. He fled into exile but joined a peace process last year and was elected in January.

Addis Ababa has said it supports the new government, but is wary of the hardline Islamists, who have links to al Qaeda, because they control large areas of Somalia and have threatened to destabilise Ethiopia and Kenya. “We think the reason (for the reports) is that the extremists are losing ground and feel they can mobilise people by presenting Ethiopian interventions to the public,” he said. “That is why they are building these accusations as a scarecrow to get support.”



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