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Ethiopia arrests over 300 police for links with Ogaden rebels

February 18, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) — Over 300 police officers suspected of links with Ogaden rebels have been arrested in Ethiopia’s restive Ogaden region as part of a government crackdown, state-media reported on Monday.

Regional police commissioner Yussef Mohamed was quoted as saying: "309 police officers suspected of having links with the anti-peace elements of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have been apprehended."

Yussef did not give a time span but said "rebel hideouts" and communication avenues had been "wiped out" by government forces.

"We are in a position to completely destroy the ONLF in a very short period of time," he said.

The Ethiopian army launched a crackdown in the region after ONLF rebels launched an attack on a Chinese oil venture in April last year, leaving 77 people dead, including nine Chinese.

The barren Ogaden region has long been extremely poor, but the discovery of gas and oil brought new hopes and fueled conflict.

Formed in 1984, the ONLF is fighting for independence for ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden, whom they say have been marginalised by the government in Addis Ababa.

(ST)

Some information for this report provided by AFP