Somalia to expel Ethiopian troops unless Somaliland port deal scrapped, official says Featured

Somalia will expel thousands of Ethiopian troops stationed in the country to help with security by the end of the year unless Addis Ababa scraps a disputed port deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland, a senior Somali official said on Monday.

Security experts and foreign diplomats said the move risks further destabilising Somalia as local forces would be unable to fill the security vacuum, which would likely be exploited by fighters from al Shabaab, an affiliate of al Qaeda.

At least 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers are stationed in the Horn of Africa country as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission (ATMIS) fighting al Shabaab, which controls large portions of Somalia, while an estimated 5,000-7,000 are stationed in several regions under a bilateral agreement.

Relations between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa nosedived earlier this year after landlocked Ethiopia agreed to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline from Somaliland - a part of Somalia which claims independence and has had effective autonomy since 1991, but has failed to win international recognition.

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