March 12, 2012
Ethiopia rejected on Sunday reports that dozens of its soldiers had been killed and two captured by Islamist rebels during fierce fighting in Somalia, branding them as "false."
The rebels, residents and government officials said there were sustained clashes on Saturday between Ethiopian soldiers and al Shabaab near the strategic town of Baidoa and in another small town some 130 km (81 miles) away.
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for killing scores of Ethiopians and capturing two while the governor of the region, based in Baidoa, said it was the al Qaeda-allied rebels who had been routed.
"They engaged our troops after regrouping in tiny pockets outside our area of control," Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told Reuters. "Al Shabaab rebels sustained heavy casualties and have retreated ... the battle scene is littered with the bodies of dead enemy combatants.
"It's a statement of survival, a desperate attempt. All claims are false," he said.
Ethiopia sent its forces into the neighbouring Horn of Africa nation in late 2006 and quickly ousted an Islamist administration from the capital Mogadishu.
Source News Day
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