An Islamic militia leader called for a holy war Friday against Ethiopian troops protecting Somalia's weak U.N.-backed government.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, speaking on Radio Shabelle, said Ethiopia's decision to send troops to protect the transitional government in Baidoa, 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu, must be met with war.

"I am calling on the Somali people to wage a holy war against Ethiopians in Baidoa," said Aweys, who the U.S. government says has ties to Al Qaeda. "They came to protect a government which they set up to advance their interests."

Residents of Baidoa reported seeing hundreds of Ethiopian troops, in uniform and in marked armored vehicles, entering Baidoa on Thursday and taking up positions around transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf's compound. Ethiopian and Somali government officials have denied Ethiopian troops are in the country, though witnesses from five towns have reported seeing them.

"Abdullahi Yusuf is in the pocket of Ethiopia," Aweys said in the nationwide broadcast. "He's been a servant of Ethiopia for a long time."