ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia is willing to deploy more troops to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia rather than rotating in another group from Sierra Leone, given Ebola fears, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said on Monday.
A group awaiting deployment from Freetown was placed in quarantine in October after one of its members tested positive for the deadly virus.
The West African nation’s battalion of more than 800 troops was deployed under a peacekeeping mission known as AMISOM.
“If there is any request from the African Union, Ethiopia is ready to replace any contingent that leaves Somalia,” Hailemariam told reporters in the Ethiopian capital.
More than 7,000 people have died in the worst epidemic of the viral haemorrhagic fever on record, most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Cases of the disease have also been recorded in Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States, but outbreaks in those countries have been contained so far.
Ethiopia already has close to 4,400 troops inside Somalia as part of the U.N.-backed mission that has driven Islamist al Shabaab rebels from the capital Mogadishu and several coastal towns since 2011.
An offensive launched alongside Somali troops in May has made more gains, but the group has changed tactics from conventional to guerrilla warfare, selecting targets that include the government, state bodies and the United Nations.
At least 10 soldiers were killed last week after the insurgents attacked a military base in southern Somalia.