Woyanne lost several towns to ONLF in a massive counter-offensive (AFP)
ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian rebels have launched a wide offensive in the southeastern Somali ethnic Ogaden region and recaptured seven towns from government forces, they claimed Saturday in a statement.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said in a statement received by AFP that it had launched a broad offensive on several fronts on November 10.
“The operation involved thousands of ONLF troops and resulted in two days of heavy fighting. A significant number of Ethiopian troops have been killed and their military hardware captured or destroyed,” it said.
The ONLF said its forces entered the towns of Obolka, Hamaro, Higlaaley, Yucub, Galadiid, Boodhaano and Gunogabo, where government forces had deployed troops and positioned military hardware.
“ONLF forces were warmly welcomed by the population in these areas and are administering medical care to those civilians killed by retreating Ethiopian occupation forces,” the statement said.
Formed in 1984, the ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia’s oil-rich Ogaden region, who they say have been marginalised by Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian military launched an offensive against ONLF rebels after they attacked a Chinese-run oil venture in Ogaden in April 2007, killing 74 people.
In April, Ethiopia said it had significantly weakened the rebels, a claim the insurgents dismissed.