Ethiopian rebels claim 157 troop killings

Two Ethiopian rebel groups have said they killed 157 troops in the east of the country this month, a claim denied by the government on Tuesday.

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said in a statement broadcast by an underground radio station Monday they had launched several joint attacks in recent weeks.

The two groups said they had killed 157 Ethiopian troops in clashes in the eastern part of the country.

In an email message sent to Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, the ONLF said the two organisations are members of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy, an umbrella association of groups hostile to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government.

Meles’ spokesperson Bereket Simon meanwhile described the rebels’ claims as “ridiculous”.

“These groups are fabricating victories … the Ethiopian army is taking continuous offensives. They are on the run, hiding for their lives,” he told AFP.

“So far, the army has continued to pursue them. We are not standing and facing them. They are only claiming victory in words when no confrontation has been taking place,” Simon said, insisting the rebels “just want to attract the media attention”.

Last month, the ONLF claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Chinese-run oil venture in Ogaden, a region along the Somali border where the separatist group is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis.

Seventy-seven people were killed in the assault, including nine Chinese nationals, while seven Chinese employees were abducted only to be released a few days later.

The OLF is also fighting for independence for the Oromo people, who make up Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group counting about 27-million people. – AFP

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