Ethnic Ogaden fighters in Ethiopia have launched an offensive in the southeastern Somali region and claim to have recaptured seven towns from government forces.
In a statement released early on Saturday, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said its attacks were launched across a broad front and had begun on November 10.
“The operation involved thousands of ONLF troops and resulted in two days of heavy fighting. A significant number of Ethiopian troops have been killed and their military hardware captured or destroyed,” it said.
The ONLF said its forces entered the towns of Obolka, Hamaro, Higlaaley, Yucub, Galadiid, Boodhaano and Gunogabo – where government forces had deployed troops and positioned military hardware.
“ONLF forces were warmly welcomed by the population in these areas and are administering medical care to those civilians killed by retreating Ethiopian occupation forces,” the statement claimed.
The Ethiopian government has not responded to the statement.
Formed in 1984, the ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia’s oil-rich Ogaden region – which they say has been marginalised by the government in Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian military launched a counter-offensive against ONLF rebels after they attacked a Chinese-run oil venture in Ogaden in April 2007, killing 74 people.
In April, Ethiopia said it had significantly weakened the the anti-government force, a claim ONLF rejects.
spotted by RS