On Tuesday Ethiopia handed over security duties to a Somali force, raising fears that the Horn of Africa country collapse into chaos if extremists allegedly linked to al-Qaida move to seize power.

The country is already fighting an Islamic insurgency and rampant piracy.

The Ethiopian pullout after a two-year deployment was widely welcomed by Somalis who had viewed the troops as an occupying force, but the Ethiopians also have provided a measure of stability in a land plagued by extreme poverty and relentless warfare.

Very few believe the Somali government is able to ensure security.

The departure dates of the Ethiopian troops remain unclear as they depart in stages.

It was unclear when all the thousands of Ethiopians will have departed. They were pulling out in stages and gave no exact dates for security reasons.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other.