Ethiopia Prepared to Invade Somalia

The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 19, 2006; 2:10 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Ethiopia is prepared to invade neighboring Somalia to defend its U.N.-backed government against what appeared to be an imminent attack by Islamic militiamen, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

The militiamen, who hold most of southern Somalia, deployed hundreds of fighters outside the town where the largely powerless government is based and said they planned to seize it.

"We have the responsibility to defend the border and the Somali government. We will crush them," Ethiopia's Minister of Information, Berhan Hailu, told The Associated Press.

Seizing the town of Baidoa would give the Islamic militia _ which the United States has linked to al-Qaida _ the uncontested authority over most of Somalia.

Somali transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is allied with Ethiopia, and has asked for its support. Ethiopia has intervened militarily in Somalia in the past, and hundreds of Ethiopian troops have been spotted along the countries' border in recent weeks.

The Somali Islamist militants are allied with Muslim separatists in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.

© 2006 The Associated Press