African Union condemns foreign fighters in Somalia.

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Halkaan ka akhri

ADDIS ABABA Monday June 15, 2009 (Reuters) – The African Union (AU) condemned on Monday foreign jihadists in Somalia who are helping local Islamist insurgents, and accepted Ethiopia’s denial that it had sent troops across the border to counter the rebels.

“The Council condemns and expresses deep concern at the increased presence of armed groups, including foreign elements, undermining the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia,” AU peace and security council chairman Sherif Mohamed Zene said.

International concern has been rising this year at the presence of foreign fighters among Islamist rebels fighting President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s government and AU peacekeepers.

Sources on various sides of the conflict put their numbers at several hundred, and U.N. special envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has said the world body’s estimate is 280-300.

Zene, who is Chad’s ambassador to the AU, declined to give names or details of the foreign insurgents. “We have launched an investigation. We will know who they are very soon,” he told reporters after a council session in Addis Ababa.

He rejected as a “false allegation” witness accounts that hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers have crossed into Somalia.

Addis Ababa sent thousands of troops across the border in 2006 to topple an Islamist movement ruling Mogadishu and most of the south. It withdrew them earlier this year, and has denied persistent reports of incursions.

A two-year insurgency, the latest cycle in 18 years of conflict, has killed about 18,000 civilians, left 1 million people homeless, compounded a humanitarian emergency affecting 3 million, and allowed piracy to flourish offshore.

Source:    Reuters

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