Ethiopian rebels: We handed over two aid workers we were holding

June 29, 2011

(AHN) Members of an Ethiopian rebel group on Tuesday said they had released two United Nations employees to the food agency they work for near the border with Somalia.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said in a statement the transfer of the World Food Programme workers took place on Monday.

The ONLF accused Ethiopia of trying to prevent transferring the workers to WFP.

“For almost a month the Ethiopian Army and security forces has set up many obstacles in order to stop all attempts by ONLF to hand over the two staff members. In order to safeguard the well-being of the workers, ONLF has decided to hand over the two workers outside Ethiopia,” the group said in a statement posted Tuesday on its website.

Recently, the group claimed that their fighters had rescued recently abducted staff working for the United Nations food agency after a fierce battle with Ethiopian military forces.

World Food Programme has not released any comments about the ONLF’s latest statement.

In May, the food agency said a driver working for WFP was gunned down and another staff member injured by unknown gunmen in the ethnic Somali region in eastern Ethiopia. It went on to say that two other employees were missing.

WFP provides food assistance to 4.5 million people in Ethiopia, including refugees and school children, in highly food-insecure areas.

This is the second deadly attack on a WFP humanitarian worker in less than a month to take place in the region.

However, the president of a Somali region under an Ethiopian protectorate, Abdi Mohmoud Omar, last month charged an Ethiopian rebel group with attacking and killing a driver and kidnapping others working for the U.N. food agency.

Omar said the ONLF rebel group is trying to block international relief agencies from reaching the Ogaden region to help drought-affected people.

He called for the international community to arrest ONLF officials abroad, accusing them of financing the armed guerillas.

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