Somaliland’s deputy minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation said its national army has driven from Somaliland territory Ethiopia’s Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels who, he said, were trained in neighboring Eritrea.
Mohammed Yonis Awale said his administration has alerted Addis Ababa about the ONLF rebels wanting to use Somaliland to launch attacks on Ethiopia.
“They came to our coast by two boats and they took their weapons and their men from the coast by some two or three trucks to transport them to Ethiopia. While they were trying that we were informed and we chased them…into the mountains. We captured two of them and we slightly injured one of them. We took from them light weapons and some documents that indicated they belonged to ONLF,” he said.
Deputy Minister Yonis Awale said the rebels wanted to “penetrate Ethiopia’s territory.”
But, the ONLF rebel group denied that over 200 of their troops were forced out of Somaliland.
The ONLF rebels have been battling Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government for independence from what they call the original Ethiopia.
Somaliland official Yonis Awale said the ONLF rebels were carrying 64 rocket launchers and that some of them had Eritrean currency and documents that proved they were trained in Eritrea.
“All these indicated that they have been trained in Eritrea and their intention was to go into Ethiopia and start their fight with the Ethiopian government. (But), we intercepted them (on) the edge of the borderline between Ethiopia and Somaliland and so we shared the information with the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopia government closed the border,” Yonis Awale said
He also said Eritrea has been training and funding armed groups in the Horn of African region. But, Asmara has sharply denied the allegations as baseless and without merit.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea and vowed to slap financial and travel restrictions on its leaders for allegedly arming hard line Somali Islamic insurgents.
The embargo followed months of international frustration over Eritrea's alleged role in arming al-Shabab, an Islamic insurgent group that is fighting to overthrow Somalia's transitional government.