Ethiopian and Somali troops captured the central Somali town of Baidoa from al-Shabaab, the militant group linked to al-Qaeda, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said.
“Baidoa has fallen into the hands of Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian forces,” he said in a phone interview from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, today.
The campaign to force the rebels from Somalia’s third-largest city began yesterday, according to Dina.
Ethiopian forces will leave Baidoa “as soon as possible,” he said. “As soon as peace and stability is realized we will hand it over to the legitimate owners, Somalis,” he said.
Ethiopia’s military entered Somalia in December, seizing the central town of Beledweyne from al-Shabaab, government spokesman Bereket Simon said last month.
Also battling the militants are 12,000 African Union troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. The United Nations today authorized an increase in the AU’s peacekeeping mission in the country, known as Amisom, to 17,731 troops. Kenya deployed troops into southern Somalia in October in pursuit of al-Shabaab.
The Horn of Africa nation has been wracked by a civil war since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre, the former dictator, in 1991. Al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern and central Somalia, has been fighting President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s administration in Mogadishu in a bid to establish an Islamic state.