Rebels say killed 215 Ethiopian troops but government denies – Reuters

December 17th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia on Monday rebuffed a separatist rebel group’s claim it had killed 215 government soldiers in fighting this week in the eastern Ogaden region. (more…)

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia on Monday rebuffed a separatist rebel group’s claim it had killed 215 government soldiers in fighting this week in the eastern Ogaden region.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said on Sunday it had killed the soldiers in battles in Galaalshe in the Fik zone of Ogaden that have been going on since Thursday.

“A claim that ONLF attacked and killed 215 Ethiopian soldiers … is pure fabrication and a figment of imagination by their supporters in Europe,” Information Minister Berhan Hailu told Reuters.

The desolate region, mostly home to wandering herders, grabbed international attention in April when ONLF rebels who are fighting for greater autonomy attacked a Chinese-run oil exploration field and killed 74 people.

The rebel group has accused the government of human rights abuses in its military clampdown on insurgents, which rights watchdogs have criticised.

ONLF said that fighting was still going on and that they had seized 55 firearms.

“An unconfirmed number of enemy troops have been wounded. Four military transport vehicles destroyed. Ethiopian helicopters have been used to transport wounded troops out of the area during the past few days,” the rebel group said.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government has regularly denied ONLF reports of mass casualties as propaganda from its foreign supporters. It has itself reported many deaths on the rebel side during its offensive against them this year.

Both sides routinely report inflictions of large casualties.

No independent confirmations of casualties are possible since the region is largely inaccessible to foreign journalists and is also often out of reach for aid workers, who are closely monitored.

(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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