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Al-Shabaab faces opposition in Ethiopia's Somali region

The Somali region of Ethiopia is mobilizing to prevent further incursions by al-Shabaab militants.

The region has been hailed as Ethiopia's most peaceful region since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018. Conflict in the Ethiopian hinterland.

Ethiopia is now gathering troops along its borders in preparation for a possible military operation against al-Shabaab. However, in the Somali region, community he leaders such as religious scholars, women and traditional elders have also been mobilized. Business leaders pledged funds and pastoralists donated livestock to security forces. The obvious goal is to resist the infiltration of al-Shabaab ideology in a region known for the tolerant and peaceful coexistence of different faith communities.

Sheikh Mohammed Hassan Brawi is one of those clerics who spoke out against al-Shabaab at a recent government-sponsored rally in the region's capital, Zigziga.

"They are trying to manipulate people by saying they want to spread religion and jihad," Brawi told VOA in a telephone interview. "We must make people aware that what these people are preaching is not jihad and has nothing to do with religion."

said it did not require al-Shabaab's intervention, and said scholars had a duty to speak in mosques and inform the public about the extremist group.

"Now is the time to speak up," he said. "We should not give them a chance, the government should not give them a chance, the clergy should not give them a chance. We have to stop them here."

Samira Gaid, a security expert and executive director of the Mogadishu-based Hilal Institute, said the community so far appears ready to deny al-Shabaab intrusion. Told.

She said al-Shabaab was having trouble building support bases within the Somali region.

Somali militant groups have so far failed to set up permanent bases in Ethiopia, but have successfully recruited troops. Al-Shabaab's commander of the Ethiopian Front, Ali Diyar, and several other commanders reportedly involved in the recent invasion hail from the region. Al-Shabab also recruited from other Ethiopian his communities, including the Oromo.

Prolonged operation

Photographs emerging from the area show that the operation against al-Shabaab fighters lasted longer than officials previously reported. Security forces appear to have been engaging militants until at least late last week.

Two Ethiopian officials, one a diplomat and the other a security official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that some al-Shabaab fighters Straddling Somalia and the Oromia region, which acknowledged reaching the target mountain range.

The number of militants who reached there he estimated to be between 50 and 100 men. However, officials in the Somali region have repeatedly reported that al-Shabaab militants who invaded Ethiopia were crushed. They ruled out the possibility that al-Shabaab fighters were organized into combat units within the region. Regional Deputy Chief of Security Mohamed Ahmed Gray told VOA Somali last week.

Gurey said al-Shabab's strategy in Ethiopia had "failed." Officials said they seized weapons, walkie-talkies, SIM cards, phones, rice and sugar. This indicates that the militants are planning a long-term operation inside Ethiopia.

"Since then, locals and villagers have been hunting them, but their remnants were arrested yesterday and the day before yesterday at another location," said Gray. Some people are trying to go back to Somalia.

Officials hope al-Shabaab can reach the mountainous area near the small town of El-Khali, near the border with Oromia. Local officials confirmed that the militants had been courting locals in the area for at least a year. locals may feel their concerns have not been addressed by local authorities, officials said.

Social integration of the local population is more closely linked to the Southern Region of Somalia. The region is also strategically mountainous, with enough water to support agricultural and pastoral communities.

Officials believe al-Shabaab was building a rural cell for at least his year. On his July 15th, five days before al-Shabaab's invasion, regional security forces conducted an operation in the El Khali region, killing a local cleric identified as Sheikh Mohammed Hassan Osman. The area's security chief accused him of being an al-Shabaab "worker" in the area.

Osman's body was displayed by the authorities, who described him as an al-Shabaab commander. He is said to have fought the security forces. Officials said they confiscated weapons during the operation that led to Osman's murder.

"The information we have is that this man was important to al-Shabaab and was a pillar of their attempt to destabilize Ethiopia," said Gray.

He said that al-Shabaab's target in this invasion was El-Khali Eliya, which Gulli argued proved the information they had about the Osmans was correct. is doing.

Authorities claimed that Osman had extremist views and that he had been known to them for many years.

"The view about him was that he was an extremist who would one day cause fitna (trouble)," Gree said.

He could not reach Osman's relatives for comment.

Al-Shabaab has vowed to fight the Ethiopian army and is conducting its own mobilization along the border.