Ethiopia says troops to stay longer in Somalia

* Addis Ababa sent in tanks and troops in November
* AU said Ethiopia would pull out by end of April
* Kenya, Uganda, Burundi peacekeepers also fighting rebels

By Aaron Maasho

(Reuters) – Ethiopia plans to keep its troops in Somalia until the Horn of Africa country ratifies a constitution and its military is able to fend off militant threats on its own, an official said on Friday, signalling a change in policy.

Addis Ababa rolled hundreds of troops across its border in November to open up a third front against the al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab group but was keen to point out their incursion is not a repeat of their ill-fated 2006-2009 war in Somalia.

Ethiopian officials have said their troops would only be deployed for a brief period to fight Islamist militants who are also fighting thousands of Ugandan and Burundian troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as Kenyan forces to the south.

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