Somalia's Islamists are in full retreat after Ethiopian airstrikes and a ground offensive that have killed up to 1,000 of the religious movement's fighters, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Tuesday.
"A joint Somali government and Ethiopian force has broken the back of the international terrorist forces... These forces are in full retreat," Meles told reporters in Addis Ababa, adding that up to 1,000 Islamist fighters had been killed.
"A few are Somali but the majority are foreigners," he said of the dead.
Addis Ababa has vowed to protect Somalia's weak interim government from rival Islamists based in Mogadishu. A week of artillery and mortar duels between the two sides has spiralled into open war that both sides say has killed hundreds.
Meles said most fighters of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) had fled to their home areas. He said Ethiopian forces were now hunting down troops from his arch-foe Eritrea, which he accuses of supporting the Islamists.
"The only forces we are pursuing are Eritreans who are hiding behind the skirts of Somali women, and terrorist mujahideen," Meles said.
The Western media has usually portrayed Ethiopia as a destitute land of famine and desert, but have not until now recalled that Ethiopia is the world's second-oldest officially Christian nation (since 316; only Armenia has been officially Christian for longer).
Ethiopia has had centuries of history to remind them of the nature of their enemy in Somalia; unlike most Western nations, they do not hesitate to call it a war.