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Ethiopia enters Somalia, but avoids African Union joint operation

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After weeks of denials, the Ethiopian government has used the advent of the new year to officially acknowledge it had rejoined the battle against militants in neighboring Somalia.

"Together with Transitional Federal Government forces the town of Beledwyne has been liberated from al-Shabaab," Communications Minister Bereket Simon said on Jan. 3.

The arrival of Ethiopian troops from the west – who officially left in 2009 after deposing the Islamic Courts in a 2.5 year campaign – buttresses the efforts of Ugandan, Burundian, Djiboutian and Kenyan forces, all now fighting under the banner of the African Union.

Unlike the Kenyans, who initially independently entered southern Somalia in October, Bereket says Ethiopia has no intention of becoming part of the African Union operation – and so receiving funds for their efforts from the European Union and others. This self-reliant stance backs up official statements it has no intention of staying for long.

Ethiopian troops first crossed the border again in the middle of November, according to The New York Times. As the government denied the claims of multiple eye-witnesses, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development – a group of seven East African nations chaired currently by Ethiopia's leader Meles Zenawi – requested support from Ethiopian forces at a meeting a few days later.

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