Ethiopia, Rebels Trade Charges in Fatal Attack on UN Workers

Published on Monday 16th May 2011

Ethiopia’s government and rebels in the troubled Ogaden region are blaming each other for an attack that killed one United Nations employee, wounded another, and left two more missing.  Authorities say their investigation of the case has led to arrests, but no word on the whereabouts of the missing workers.Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal says several suspects have been taken into custody in connection with Friday’s attack on two U.N. World Food Program vehicles on a remote road in the eastern Somali region, known as the Ogaden. "The security forces who immediately went after the attackers had managed to arrest a number of suspected terrorists," said Kemal. The vehicles carried four Ethiopian WFP employees on a mission to monitor food aid distribution in the drought-stricken region. The humanitarian agency confirmed that one of its drivers was killed when the vehicles were apparently ambushed. Another employee was wounded and later rescued, though details remain sketchy. But the whereabouts of the other two workers is unknown. Spokesman Shimelis says the men are believed being held by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a rebel group seeking the region’s independence from Ethiopia."These are acts of terrorism," he said. "The police have suspicion that these are acts carried out by ONLF.  We have information that they have taken two hostages."The ONLF strongly denies responsibility for the incident.  In an email to journalists Sunday, the rebels described the attack as “cowardly and cold-blooded”, and accused government forces of staging it to paint the rebels as terrorists.Ethiopia sharply restricts journalists and humanitarian aid workers access to the Ogaden conflict zone, where a counterinsurgency operation is in progress. Human-rights and aid groups have accused both the rebels and pro-government forces with numerous rights violations, charges both sides have denied.Last month, Ethiopia refused permission to International Committee of the Red Cross to resume operations in the Ogaden. ICRC workers were expelled from the region nearly four years ago for allegedly aiding the rebels. The humanitarian group has denied the charge.


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