Ethiopia rebels claim killed 24 soldiers – ADDIS ABABA (AFP)
Ethiopia’s Somali-ethnic rebellion on Saturday claimed it had killed 24 soldiers in recent fighting but the army denied being involved in clashes.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) claimed it killed Ethiopian soldiers in the Ogaden’s eastern region of Degah Bur and added that the fighting was ongoing.
“24 Ethiopian troops have been killed in this latest round of fighting since March 4, with dozens wounded,” it said in a statement.
The ONLF said the troops it was combatting had recently been redeployed inside Ethiopia from southern Somalia, where they were part of the occupation forces Addis Ababa finished withdrawing earlier this year.
It also said it captured an army arms depot near Degah Bur.
The Ethiopian military denied the rebels’ claim and insisted it was not involved in fighting in that region.
“It is not true. We have seen what they said, but according to the information we got from Somali region officials, there is fighting between local people and their militias and local terrorists,” state secretary for information Ermias Legesse told AFP.
“Among these terrorists, one leader and two members of the ONLF have been killed by the militias. The Ethiopian army is not involved,” he added.
The ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia’s oil-rich Ogaden region. They say the local people have been marginalised by Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s military launched an offensive against the ONLF after they attacked a Chinese-run oil venture in the Ogaden in 2007, killing 77 people, including nine Chinese nationals.