ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia on Monday dismissed claims that rebels had captured seven towns in the southeastern Somali Ogaden region following heavy fighting earlier this month.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) claimed Saturday it had carried out a broad offensive launched on several fronts on November 10 and inflicted defeats on government troops.
"It's a baseless claim, blank propaganda. This terrorist group is currently disbanded from government campaigns," government spokesman Shimelis Kemal told AFP.
The rebels claimed killing 626 government soldiers as well as capturing military hardwear and "sensitive intelligence gathering material."
Shimelis admitted that incidents took place in the region, but refuted rebel claims of victory.
Formed in 1984, the ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia's oil-rich Ogaden region, who they say have been marginalised by Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian military launched an offensive against ONLF rebels after they attacked a Chinese-run oil venture in Ogaden in April 2007, killing 77 people.
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