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Ethiopia says"technically" at war with Somali Islamists

Written by: Staff

ADDIS ABABA, Oct 24 (Reuters) Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said today Ethiopia was ''technically'' at war with Somalia's Islamists because they had declared jihad on his nation.

''The jihadist elements within the Islamic Court movement are spoiling for a fight. They've been declaring jihad against Ethiopia almost every other week,'' Meles told Reuters in an interview. ''Technically we are at war.'' ''We believe they've been preparing terrorist outrages (in Somalia and Ethiopia). They're very close to our border. The indications are not that encouraging. But we've been patient so far and we'll continue to be patient,'' he said.

Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa's most powerful nation, has ''a few hundred'' armed military trainers in Somalia to support the interim government but will continue to exercise restraint, the prime minister said.

Ethiopia regards the Mogadishu-based Islamists, who have taken a swathe of southern Somalia since June, as led by terrorists.

The Islamists say Ethiopia wants to control them and has sent thousands of troops across the border to back President Abdullahi Yusuf's isolated government in the town of Baidoa.

Various Islamist leaders have spoken of a jihad on Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian military trainers in Somalia ''are providing elementary military training to the Somali security elements,'' Meles said. ''Naturally, they are in a dangerous place so they have to be armed to protect themselves. A few hundred at most would be the number.'' ''We are trying to avoid a shooting war to the maximum extent possible and therefore, as it were, we are looking the other way in spite of these declarations,'' Meles said.

''They will have to force us to fight. That can come when and if they physically attack us.'' REUTERS BDP HT2012

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