Ethiopia rebels deny claims they are weakened

ethiopian_eastADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Ethiopia’s ethnic Somali rebels on Thursday refuted government claims that they had been weakened by a military offensive.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) operating in the country’s southeastern region termed the charge as “wishful thinking which is far from reality and bordering on fantasy.”

Communication Minister Bereket Simon said Tuesday the ONLF was in a state of “crisis and very weak” due to its military offensive.

“The fact of the matter is that the ONLF’s operational capacity is now higher than at any point since the start of the organization’s armed struggle,” the rebels said in a statement.

Ethiopia’s army launched a drive against the ONLF in the aftermath of an attack on a Chinese-run oil venture in the Ogaden region in 2007.

The rebels said Addis Ababa’s claims were “clearly designed to instill a false sense of confidence in oil exploration companies which the regime is trying to lure back to Ogaden.”

The group has been fighting since 1984 and claim their oil-rich territory is systematically marginalised by the Christian-dominated regime.