ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has claimed that government troops have killed or captured 95 percent of rebels in the separatist Ogaden region.
“Around 95 percent of the total troops the ONLF had last year have either been killed or captured. The figure includes senior officials,” Meles told lawmakers at a parliamentary session.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front, formed in 1984, is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia’s vast oil-rich Ogaden region, whom they say have been marginalized by Addis Ababa.
Speaking Wednesday, Meles said his forces were now “mopping up die-hard ONLF rebels scattered in various parts of the Ogaden and accused arch-foe Eritrea of supporting up the rebel group.
“We are aware of the fact that the Eritrean government has recently been training forces in areas around Assab (inside Eritrea). We know each member of that group and we are on standby to deter any infiltration or attack.”
The authorities in Addis Ababa routinely accuse Asmara of arming and training Ethiopian separatist armed groups — allegations denied by Asmara.
The Ethiopian army launched a crackdown in Ogaden after ONLF rebels attacked a Chinese oil venture in April 2007 that left 77 people dead.
The discovery of oil has fueled conflict in Ogaden, an impoverished region roughly the size of Britain and home to around four million people.