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Ethiopia Says Eritrea Behind Chinese Oil Facility Bloodbath

Addis Ababa regularly accuses Eritrea of backing Ethiopian separatist groups that have carried out a series of bombs attacks in Addis Ababa in recent years, and of attacking civilian positions in southern and eastern Ethiopia.
by Staff Writers
Addis Ababa (AFP) Apr 25, 2007
Ethiopia on Wednesday accused arch-foe Eritrea of supporting the rebels who attacked a remote Chinese-run oil venture that killed 74 people, and abducted up to seven Chinese workers. Eritrea immediately denied the claim -- the latest in a string of accusations and counter-accusations between the rival neighbours.

"The perpetrator of the terrorist attack ... is the self-styled Ogaden National Liberation Front, a terrorist wing which is part of the front of destruction led by the Eritrean government," the Ethiopian Information Ministry said in a statement.

Up to seven Chinese workers were kidnapped in Tuesday's dawn raid on the oil prospection facility in Ethiopia's eastern Ogaden region, where the rebel group is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis.

"Hand-in-glove with the Eritrean government, which hates to see Ethiopia's development, the terrorist forces in the region have acted out this horrendous act of terror," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the president of Somali region, Abdulahi Hassen, told AFP that witnesses said the attackers had been wearing Eritrean army uniforms.

"It was the Eritrean commandoes and their international terrorist allies who were responsible for these inhumane acts on ordinary citizens. Their aim, like always, is sabotaging the country's economic facilities," said Abdulahi Hassen. Eritrea rejected the accusations, claiming Addis Ababa was seeking to trigger a war.

"The accusations are baseless," Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu said. "They want to create a pretext to take belligerent measures against Eritrea."

Ali said the ONLF was the result of a "failed Ethiopian racial policy" that had splintered Ethiopia into more than 30 rival ethnic groups.

"It is becoming clear that these kind of statements are intended to divert attention from Ethiopia's own domestic crisis," he told AFP.

Addis Ababa regularly accuses Eritrea of backing Ethiopian separatist groups that have carried out a series of bombs attacks in Addis Ababa in recent years, and of attacking civilian positions in southern and eastern Ethiopia.

The two nations, still at odds over an unresolved border dispute, fought a bloody 1998-2000 over the precise demarcation of their frontier.

Ethiopia said Wednesday that it would send an investigation team to the Ogaden oil prospection site, a government spokesman told AFP.

"Officials of the government are going there today, along with defense officials to assess the situation," said Berekat Simon, spokesman for Prime Minster Meles Zenawi.

"The government is committed to pursuing the perpetrators to bring them to justice," he added, making no comment about the abducted Chinese workers.

The ONLF said in an email to AFP on Tuesday that it was holding six Chinese workers and that they were being treated well. Chinese and Ethiopian officials had said seven Chinese were being held.

The group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack in a statement on its website in which it said it had completely destroyed the oil facility.

The raid was the first on an Ethiopian oil prospection site since the ONLF issued a threat to foreign companies operating in the eastern region one year ago.

The separatist group, formed in 1984, says that the Ogaden people have been marginalised and brutalised by Ethiopia.

China's foreign ministry condemned Tuesday's attack and called on the Ethiopian government to ensure the safety of Chinese workers, but observers said such violence was an inevitable part of Beijing's rising interests in Africa.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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