The Ethiopian government announced on Wednesday that its troops fighting an al-Qaeda-linked terror group in Somalia were retreating. The retreat allowed al-Shabab militants to recover ground in the south of Somalia, said Tiyeglow district commissioner Abdullahi Ahmed Jinaw, who was forced to flee the region with the Ethiopian troops.
Tiyeglow fell to al-Shabab early Wednesday morning, and was the fourth to do so in the last week.
Ethiopian troops have been present in Somalia for over a decade, but government spokesman Getachew Reda said they represented an expense that prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s administration could not maintain.
He assured the troops’ departure would be done in a way that would not leave a security vacuum in the country, but Somali residents already reported being affected by al-Shabab.
Meanwhile, residents of the northern town of Qandaka reported that the local port had been taken over by Islamic State militants. Some 50 armed men ordered residents to leave and not inform anyone of their presence.
It is believed they are to use the port to receive supplies from their partners in Yemen. Ethiopian troops were first deployed to Somalia in 2006 to help fight against the Islamic Courts Union, which sought to form a government rival to the central one.
Once the ICU were defeated, the troops remained to strengthen and help the Mogadishu government, which was fighting to hold control over large swathes of the country that were in the hands of rival clans and Islamists.
Ethiopia had 2,000 soldiers in Somalia, not including the ones participating in the African Union mission (ANISOM), who are to remain until the mission is complete.