New fighting force in Ethiopia’s Ogaden
Sept 16, 2012, (Aljazeera) - The conflict In Ethiopia’s Somali, or Ogaden, region has killed thousands of people over the last 15 years. But the crisis is little known because of media restrictions by the government.
It borders Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia. The people there are predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim.
It is also home to a separatist campaign led by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, or ONLF, which has fought for independence since 1984.
Ethiopian forces waged an offensive against the rebels in late 2007 after an attack on a Chinese-run oil facility.
Last week Ethiopia’s government held peace talks with the ONLF in Kenya.
In the second part of Al Jazeera’s series on Ogaden, Mohammed Adow meets the region’s new fighting force.
ADDIS ABABA (Bikyamasr): Ethiopia security forces arrested a number of civilians in the Ogaden region in the Eastern part of the country, sources were quoted as saying to Ogaden Today Press.
According to one eyewitness, civilians were arrested in the Ogaden towns of Kebridahar, Shilaabo, Fiiq, Galaalshe and Dhagaxbuur Zone in the latest crackdown on the troubled region.
“The civilians are accused of supporting the ONLF, Ogaden National Liberation Front, a nationalist movement fighting for the independence of Ogaden Region,” the report stated.
The source added “that 36 individuals are arrested in different locations; some are taken to Police stations while others are taken to military camps, while still the operation is continuing.”
The arrests come after the ONLF accused the military of carrying out a massacre of civilians in Ogaden last week.
The ONLF accused the Ethiopian military of committing a massacre against predominantly women and children in the Wardher region on September 6.
At least 13 people have been confirmed dead.
The ONLF said in a statement that the killings targeted family members of ONLF rebels, including the Guuleed family.
“All the victims were collected from different parts of the region including Danood, Qorile and other areas in Wardher region, and brought to Miir-denbas and summarily executed,” Ogaden Online reported.
The ONLF statement said that one of the victims was critically wounded by the military and left on the ground to die. Another 15 civilians are reportedly missing.
One eyewitness told Bikyamasr.com that family members of the victims are currently holed up in their homes for fear that they will also be attacked and killed.
“The situation here is extremely tense and people are both angry and sad at the violence against us,” the witness said.
Panic has taken hold of the area, the news report said.
“For the last two years, the Ethiopian Army and its surrogates militias has increased this exemplary killings, causing fear and destruction of the lives of innocent civilians in Ogaden,” the ONLF statement read. “Since 2007 when a UN found gross violations of Human Rights by the Ethiopian army in Ogaden and recommended a UN investigation on the violation of Human Rights, the Ethiopian Army continued their transgressions with impunity.”
The reports of the massacre come as the ONLF and the Ethiopian government met in Kenya to discuss parameters for peace negotiations to end decades of violence in the Eastern Ogaden state near the Somalia border.
The ONLF was formed in 1984 and has carried out numerous attacks against the government over what it says is neglect and human rights abuses.
“It is not the first time that the Ethiopian Army in Ogaden engaged in similar activities at times of dialogue between ONLF and Ethiopia,” the ONLF continued. “For the last two months, the intentional killing of the civilian people had increased remarkably. In 1998, when an attempt to negotiate started, the Ethiopian Army killed three of delegates of the negotiation team, while returned from a rendezvous with the Ethiopian counterparts.”
They have called on the international community to hold the Ethiopia government responsible for the continued violence perpetrated in the state.