12 August 2006

Ethiopia: Gov't Says 13 ONLF Members Killed

Some 13 members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have been killed and several commanders were captured as they crossed into Ethiopia from Somalia, an official of the Somali region in Ethiopia said Friday.

Abdu Ahmed Arab, deputy head of security and justice coordination bureau for the Somali region told reporters: "The Armed Forces killed 13 and captured many other top officials of the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front, in an operation launched at eradicating rebel groups who cross into the country from neighboring Somalia."

Ethiopia points to a UN arms embargo report to substantiate its accusation that ethnic dissident groups such as the ONLF and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) were being supported by Eritrea and the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia. Both have denied the accusation.

Similarly, Kenya has disclosed that it has apprehended some 45 "members and sympathizers" of the OLF.

Authorities in Kenya said the suspects were rounded up in the last five days in joint Kenyan-Ethiopian operations on both sides of the border.

Vincent Okioma, district commissioner for the northern Kenyan region of Moyale told reporters that the searches will be ongoing for the coming two months to apprehend and repatriate members of the group.

Meanwhile the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in Somalia has taken control of a town in Central Somalia near the Ethiopian border, sparking fears of renewed bloodshed as the Courts try to advance further north.

Beletweyne fell in the UIC's hands as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia struggles to form a new cabinet. Following a rift between Ali Mohammed Gedi, the Prime Minister, and numerous ministers and government officials, who later resigned their posts, Abdulahi Yusuf, the Interim President, dissolved the cabinet on Monday.

The decision follows negotiations brokered by Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin to resolve the differences between the top three interim government officials.

Gedi on one side and Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Speaker of House on the other, had different positions on talks with the UIC.

The president and the speaker were against Gedi's decision to postpone talks with the UIC in Khartoum.

In Baidowa, some 250 kilometers from the capital where the TFG is based, Yusuf told Parliament that "the bloated cabinet of Ali Mohamed Gedi's government did not do anything during its tenure." Yusuf added, "From today onwards, the government has been dissolved, only the prime minister will remain."

Gedi who survived a vote of no confidence two weeks ago was given a week's time to appoint a 31-member cabinet. He is currently consulting with community elders in a bid to form a "leaner and efficient" cabinet that is all-inclusive.

The previous cabinet had 42 ministers with only half the posts filled. Four were fired, 16 quit and one was murdered.

"[Gedi has been consulting] different groups from all political persuasions to form a government of national unity," Abdirahman Dinari, the government spokesperson told UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) on Friday.

In a related news, tensions have risen in Puntland as the UIC declared that it intends to move towards the town of Galkaio, some 750 kilometers from Mogadishu.

"We know that Islamic militias are trying to undermine security in Punt-Land region, but that will be unacceptable" Ade Muse Hirsi, the president of Somalia self-autonomous Punt-Land region said.

"We will defend Punt-land anyway," he added angrily. "They are making clear aggression against the region but we shall not be enduring anymore."

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