Woyanne accused of using warplanes to bomb three villages – Reuters

June 25th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Rebels in Ethiopia’s remote eastern Somali region accused the government on Monday of using warplanes to bomb three villages, killing around 40 people, in an escalating offensive against the insurgents. (more…)

Rebels in Ethiopia’s remote eastern Somali region accused the government on Monday of using warplanes to bomb three villages, killing around 40 people, in an escalating offensive against the insurgents.

The government said it had the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) “on the run”, but denied using planes during fighting in the poor and arid region on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa.

An ONLF spokesman said as well as the victims of air raids, 57 more civilians had died in the past 10 days or so of battles.

“This is a big offensive, mostly targeting the population because they cannot beat us,” Abdirahman Mahdi, an ONLF founder member and now its UK-based spokesman, told Reuters.

“We hear from our commanders that they carpet-bombed three villages — Abaaqorow, Dar es Salaam, and Ayun — with MiG jets last Thursday. About 40 civilians died. Another 57 died in other incidents.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced a crackdown against the ONLF, one of several guerrilla groups fighting his government from remote corners of the vast nation.

The ONLF drew international attention with an April raid on a Chinese-run oil exploration field that killed 74 people.

That was one of the bloodiest attacks in a sporadic but long-running conflict between government forces and the ONLF, which seeks more autonomy for the underdeveloped region.

The government calls them terrorists and says they are supported by neighbour and arch-foe Eritrea.

Mahdi said the Ethiopian army had lost between 200 and 300 soldiers in the last 10 days or so, compared with 20 to 30 deaths on the rebel side. “That is very high casualties for us,” he said.

A senior Ethiopian official said the ONLF information was false and meant to disguise its own oppression of locals.

“The terrorists are on the run and the allegation that Ethiopia’s government uses war planes to carpet-bomb civilians is unfounded. Ethiopia does not have any policy to use war planes for internal conflicts,” Zenawi’s special adviser Bereket Simon said. “The claim by the ONLF is to cover its own crimes inflicted upon civilians.”

Comments are closed.