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Ethiopian Police Say They Have Foiled Terrorist Plot

Police in Ethiopia say they have prevented a rebel group called the Oromo Liberation Front from carrying out a plan to bomb public buildings and assassinate officials in the Ethiopian city of Nazareth. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi reports Ethiopia's government in Addis Ababa also accuses neighboring Eritrea of sponsoring the alleged plot.

The state-run Ethiopian News Agency reports that members of the national police anti-terrorism task force have detained a number of people they believe had responsibility for coordinating and carrying out the plot.

The news agency says police confiscated nine explosive devices, 12 fuses, and an AK-47 assault rifle during the arrests.

It is not clear how many people have been arrested or where they were caught. But the Ethiopian police say they are certain that members of the Oromo Liberation Front were planning to bomb infrastructure and public buildings in Nazareth, 76 kilometers southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa.

The rebels reportedly had a second plot to assassinate prominent officials, including the head of a local university.

Nazareth, called Adama by the ethnic Oromo people, sits in the middle of a 600,000-square-kilometer area the rebels call Oromia. Since 1973, rebels have fought the Ethiopian government for Oromia's autonomy. They accuse Addis Ababa of marginalizing and exploiting the Oromo people.

VOA was unable to reach the Oromo Liberation Front for comment on the terror allegations. But the rebels say the Ethiopian government has fabricated stories in the past about the rebel movement and its activities.

Earlier this month, the Oromo Liberation Front vehemently denied a report by Ethiopia's Defense Ministry its fighters were captured in the Ogaden region, where another Ethiopian rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, is fighting for autonomy. The Oromo Liberation Front also denied government accusations it has ties to al-Itihaad, a radical Muslim group the United States considers a terrorist organization.

In a telephone interview with VOA, Eritrea's senior government spokesman, Yemane Gebremeskel, dismissed Addis Ababa's assertion that the Eritrean government in Asmara recruited rebels to carry out the attacks in Nazareth.

"That is absolute rubbish and they know it. We know it. Ethiopia does not want this border problem to be solved," said Gebremeskel. "So, it is trying to associate Eritrea with acts of terrorism or other violations because they want to circumvent the critical issue of what is creating tension in this region. They want to deflect that tension."

From 1998 to 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought an unresolved border war that killed more than 70,000 people and displaced more than 100,000 others. The United Nations has warned that the border stalemate threatens regional security.