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September 11, 2008
Ethiopian troops retreat from Somalia

David Axe is freelance war correspondent who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, East Timor and Somalia and blogs at Africa is Boring for From the Frontline.

Ethiopians withdrawing from Somalia?

Thousands of Ethiopian troops reportedly are retreating from Mogadishu after nearly two years of bloody fighting. The withdrawal, which still leaves sizable Ethiopian and A.U. (pictured) forces in the city, coincides with two separate peace talks: one, U.N.-brokered, aiming at reconciling all of Somalia’s armed parties; the other, encouraged by Ethiopia, meant to prevent a split in Somalia’s struggling “transitional government.”

The Ethiopians aren’t quitting without exacting a toll. In the last week, Ethiopian troops have killed at least 39 people in shootings, many of them civilians.

Insurgents, too, aren’t going away quietly. This weekend gunmen killed two U.N. aid workers in Mogadishu, apparently continuing an insurgent strategy of targeting foreign humanitarians.

The apparent (partial) Ethiopian withdrawal hasn’t made headlines in the West … nor has it appeared to cause much of a stir in Somalia. The last email I got from one of my Somali contacts, on Sunday, said only that “the situation in Mogadishu is not good:”

On August 15, more than 55 civilians have been killed [on the] outskirts of Mogadishu. The people in Mogadishu are between two fires, mean[ing] the Ethiopian [and their] allies and Islamic insurgents.

Withdrawals or no, to the average Somali, it’s business as usual in Mogadishu.

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For more Worldfocus coverage of Ethiopia, visit our extended coverage page: Ethiopia Past and Present.

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