Accessibility links

Ethiopia Detains US, European Citizens in Ogaden

Ethiopia says it has detained some American and European citizens on suspicion of terrorist activities in the restive Southeastern region known as the Ogaden. VOA's Peter Heinlein has details from the southeastern Ethiopian town of Gode.

The leader of Ethiopia's Somali region, also known as the Ogaden, told visiting international journalists that his government is holding an unspecified number of American and European passport holders.

Regional President Abdullahi Hassan did not say when they were detained. He said they were being held at a camp near the Eastern Ethiopian city of Gigia. He said the journalists could meet some of the detainees in the coming days.

Abdullahi Hassan indicated that those being held are ethnic Somalis working with a regional insurgent group known as the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

"Those destroying this country are living in Europe, are living in America, they are collecting money, they have passports, originally they from here, but they are over there, they are living there, so they are buying this money, weapons, mines, explosive are destroying us, this is truth whether you believe it or not," said Abdullahi.

Abdullahi Hassan described the detainees as members of what he called "anti-peace" elements and international terrorist organizations and suggested they would be held in similar circumstances to detainees at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay.

He said Ethiopian authorities had not formally notified U.S. and European authorities of the detentions, but he said they probably know.

"We didn't......I hope they know," he said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Addas Ababa said they have no information about Americans being detained but they are following up the issue with Ethiopia.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front has been fighting to achieve greater autonomy from Ethiopia, and accuses the government of human rights abuses against ethnic Somalis who are part of Ethiopia's Muslim minority.

The government accuses its arch rival Eritrea of funding and providing refuge to the ONLF. The Somali region is the largest of Ethiopia's administrative areas but is sparsely populated, mostly by pastoralists. The Somali region is in southeastern Ethiopia, bordering Eritrea, Kenya and Somalia.

As the Horn of Africa heats up, police in neighboring Kenya arrested two foreigners of suspicion of terrorist activities during continuing protests aimed at overturning the December 27 election that returned President Mwai Kibaki to power. The two, German and Dutch nationals, said the were journalists. They were arrested earlier this week at Nairobi airport as they prepared to leave the country.