The Ogaden National Liberation
Front (ONLF) said they did not intend to hold hostages. The ONLF rebels will
release the seven Chinese workers it took prisoner during a recent attack on a
Chinese oil facility in Ethiopia. The ONLF reminded everyone that it
considered the Ogaden region of southern
Ethiopia "a war zone". The rebels are
ethnic Somalis who do not want oil or mineral exploration in the Ogaden. The
ONLF wants the region to be part of Somalia, and considers the oil drilling as theft from the Ogaden people.
The attack sends an economic message to China and other nations interested in
similar projects in Ethiopia. China is active throughout Africa, in searching
for and buying oil and mineral resources. Chinese workers have been taken
hostage in Nigeria. Chinese deals with Sudan and Zambia have come under
Ethiopia and Somalia have been fighting over who
controls the Ogaden for generations. Until the 1960s, there was no Somali
nation, and Ethiopia had long controlled the Ogaden, in order to keep Somali
raiders from getting into more populated parts of Ethiopia. Ogaden is mostly arid shrub, not worth much.
But now there's oil, something worth fighting for. But no one wants to offend the Chinese, who
are one of the few industrialized nations that is willing to work with anyone,
if the price is right. This makes good will with the Chinese a valuable thing
to have. Eritrea will have to do some fancy dancing to avoid the ire of the
Chinese after killing or kidnapping over a dozen of them.
April 25, 2007: Ethiopian troops continued
searching for missing Chinese and Ethiopian workers captured in an attack in
April 24, 2007: Some two hundred ONLF rebels attacked a Chinese oil project in
southern Ethiopia (the Ogaden region). Ethiopia believes this was done in
cooperation with Eritrea (which is probably true). Ethiopia accused
Eritrea of prosecuting a proxy war against Ethiopia via the ONLF and of
undermining negotiations with less hostile groups in the Ogaden. The attack left 65 Ethiopian troops
and nine Chinese workers dead. Seven Chinese workers were taken prisoner. The firefight at the site (operated by the
China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation) began in the morning and lasted six
hours. The initial attack focused on the hundred Ethiopian soldiers protecting
the facility. The ONLF said the Chinese
were killed by a munitions explosion during the attack. The ONLF insist they
were only looking to harm Ethiopian soldiers, not Chinese.
The autonomous (and sometimes independent) Somali
region of Puntland (north Somalia, right on the "elbow" of Somalia) claims that
Eritrea is causing trouble between Puntland and the Republic of Somaliland. The
Republic of Somaliland is another separatist region of Somalia (located west of
Puntland). Puntland and Somaliland have skirmished over their border area but
have also promised to cooperate on trade and infrastructure issues. The two
regions also cooperate with Ethiopia - which is anathema to Eritrea.
April 23, 2007: The US accused Eritrea of
supporting new rebel groups inside Somalia. There is little debate that this is
occurring. Eritrea has decided to aid Islamic and clan groups inside Somalia in
hopes of continuing the "proxy war" and bogging Ethiopia down in Somalia.
April 22, 2007: Eight Ethiopians, who were
kidnapped in March in the Afar region (northern Ethiopia), have been
released inside Eritrea. Five Europeans
were taken hostage at the same time and were also released inside Eritrea.
Ethiopia has suggested Eritrea was involved in the kidnappings but that isn't
necessarily the case. Afar nomads move back and forth across the border region.