Thursday, April 26, 2007

ONLF attacks an oil site

Indian Ocean Newsletter N°1212 25/04/2007
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an organisation fighting for the independence of the Ogaden province in Ethiopia, claimed responsibility for the attack on 24 April of the oil exploration site operated by the Chinese company Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB). Just before 4.30 a.m. an ONLF "Dufaan" commando attacked this site situated near Obale, a small town in the northern Ogaden about 120 km from Jijiga (east Ethiopia). Nine Chinese workers and several tens of Ethiopians were killed, the installations destroyed and the Ethiopian government forces overwhelmed. The two hundred or so attackers abducted several Chinese workers and Ethiopian soldiers.

This operation is the first to be carried out by the ONLF on this scale for many years. This organisation had issued a warning last year to foreign companies interested in searching for oil and gas in the south of Ethiopia. Also in 2006, a number of skirmishes had already taken place between groups of ONLF fighters and the government armed forces in another zone in the Ogaden. But especially, as soon as the Islamist forces took power in Somalia in July 2006, the ONLF infiltrated some hundreds of its combatants into Ethiopia via Djibouti (ION 1190) to pave the way for operations against the Ethiopian government forces.

The President of the ONLF, Mohamed Omar Osman is a former Somalia navy commander. Considered highly chauvinistic, he lived in London before moving to Eritrea where hundreds of his movement's recruits underwent military training in the Kalena and Addis Meskal camps near Tesseney (ION 1179).