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Ethiopian Airstrikes Target Islamists in Somalia

24 December 2006

Ethiopian forces have launched airstrikes as part of a counterattack against Islamist fighters in neighboring Somalia.

Ethiopia's information minister (Berhan Hailu) says operations targeted several Islamic militia strongholds (Dinsoor, Bandiradley, Baladwayne, Buur Hakaba) along Ethiopia's border. It is the first time Ethiopia has acknowledged its military is fighting in Somalia.

Witnesses in central and northern Somalia reported warplanes bombarding Islamist positions and Ethiopian ground troops exchanging mortar fire with Islamist forces.

Heavy fighting was also reported near the transitional government headquarters in Baidoa.

The airstrikes mark an apparent escalation in days of fighting that both sides claim has caused hundreds of casualties. The tally has not been independently confirmed.

On Saturday, Somalia's Islamist defense chief, Yusuf Mohamed Siad asked for Muslims worldwide to join a "holy war" against the Ethiopian forces.

An undetermined number of Ethiopian soldiers are in Somalia to provide military support for the transitional government, which has little influence outside its seat in Baidoa.

The latest round of fighting began Tuesday as Islamist forces attacked Baidoa and vowed to expel Ethiopian troops from Somalia.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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