MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Ethiopia confirmed on Wednesday that peacekeepers from its Tigray region in Somalia had been disarmed over security fears, raising concerns over the troops’ ability to fight Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants.
Diplomatic and security sources said earlier that between 200 and 300 Tigrayans had had their weapons removed, Reuters News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Ethiopia’s military launched a major military offensive on the northern Tigray region two weeks ago in what the country’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed billed as an operation to restore law and order.
Ethiopia’s military considered to be the most powerful in the Horn of Africa, has in recent years been playing a pivotal role in an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
The move by the Ethiopian military to disarm those troops is feared to weaken the forces’ ability to fight Al-Shabaab militants and it comes as Somalia plans to hold parliamentary elections next month and presidential elections in February next year.
More recently US media have been reporting that Donald Trump has been considering pulling out hundreds of American troops in the war-torn country before Joe Biden assumes office in January.
Tigray leaders have said Ethiopia’s government biased against the region, a charge the federal government denies.
According to diplomatic sources quoted by Reuters the disarmed men were believed to be confined to their bases in Somalia. They include a deputy commander in one of the military sectors.
The news of the disarmament of Tigrayan peacekeepers in Somalia comes days after Somaliguardian reported that dozens of officers from the northern Ethiopia region have been pulled back, according to military sources within the Somali army.
Ethiopia pulled out 3,000 of its 15,000 non-AMISOM troops in Somalia since a military offensive swung into action in Tigray region earlier this month. The country contributes around 4,000 of the 17,000 troops under the African Union mission in the country.
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