ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia says it has arrested alleged members of the Islamic State group in several towns close to its borders with Somalia and Kenya, various media reported on Wednesday.
The group has a presence in Somalia but this is the first time its alleged members have been found in Ethiopia.
Most of those arrested are foreign nationals, from Syria and Yemen. An army official, Colonel Tesfaye Ayalew, told the BBC that Ethiopians were also among those arrested.
Col Tesfaye said Ethiopia’s strong intelligence network and its good relationship with neighboring Somalia led to the successful arrest of the militants.
Last month, IS announced that for the first time it was producing audio and video content in Amharic, which is Ethiopia’s official language.
Ethiopia however dismissed information by ISIS that it has a presence in Ethiopia as a “psychological warfare”.
“The people of Ethiopia will not be intimidated and scared by this,” General Berhanu Jula, Deputy Chief of Staff, told state-media Addis Zemen.
He said ISIS has no capacity to enter and operate in Ethiopia.
The IS group first gained a presence in Somalia in October 2015 after a small group of fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabab broke away and pledged allegiance to the IS leader – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Despite facing attacks from both al-Shabab and the Somali government, the group has maintained a presence in north-east Somalia and around the capital, Mogadishu.
Last year, IS killed three Ethiopians in the Somali city of Bosaso, according to the BBC.
Photo Caption: Deputy Chief of Staff and military operations head of the Ethiopian Armed Forces General Berhanu Jula. File