Ethiopian tanks advancing on Somali town
Mogadishu - Ethiopian troops in battle tanks thrust into rebel-held Somalia on Tuesday, sparking heavy fighting as they advanced towards the Shabaab stronghold of Baidoa, witnesses said.
"We are getting information that heavy fighting broke out near Bohol-Bashir. The Ethiopian soldiers have taken control of Kurteele and are advancing towards Baidoa," local resident Abdikarin Ahmed told AFP.
On Tuesday, Ethiopian troops backed by local militia fighters took control of several areas along the road heading south from the border to Baidoa, which hosted the transitional parliament before the rebels seized it in 2009.
The Ethiopian attack on the major Shabaab stronghold comes as the insurgents face increasing pressure on two other front, with Kenyan troops coming from the south and aiming for the port of Kismayo while African Union troops try to firm up their grip on Mogadishu and its surroundings.
A local Shabaab commander claimed his forces had defeated the Ethiopians.
"The enemies of Allah, Ethiopian mercenaries, crossed to Bohol-Bashir advancing onto the bases of the Mujahideen fighters, but they were defeated," said Sheik Mohamed Abu-Ayub.
"Some of their trucks were destroyed and their intention thwarted by the young energetic soldiers of Allah."