The Somali Regional States' Police
Commission, on Wednesday and Thursday, detained four suspects in the
attack on oil exploration companies in the Ogaden basin, south east
Bashir Abdulahi, the regional states' police commissioner, told
that the police arrested the first two suspects on Wednesday in the
regional capital, Jijjiga town, 630km east of Addis Ababa. Bashir said
the police arrested another two suspects on Thursday in the same town.
The commissioner indicated the individuals were suspected of some kind
of involvement in the crime adding the individuals were not residents
of Jijiga. "They are from different localities in the region. They are
being interrogated," he added.
said investigations were underway in different localities. "We believe
that we will find some of the culprits in the near future," he said.
The commissioner declined to disclose the identities of the suspects.
However, he said intensive investigations were underway adding the
outcome would be made public at the appropriate time.
of the federal and the regional police forces as well as the national
defense forces are searching for the culprits. The attack took place on
Tuesday morning at about 5:00 AM in Degahabur zone in Abole locality,
12km from Jijiga. Nine Chinese oil workers and 65 locals were killed
when more than 200 armed men opened fire at a residential camp in
Abole. The attackers fought 100 Ethiopian soldiers guarding the camp in
a 50-minute gun battle. Seven Chinese workers were taken hostages.
Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) took responsibility for the
attack. The ONLF described the attack as "military operations against
units of the Ethiopian armed forces guarding an oil exploration site."
The group did not give details of causalities. However, it said it had
wiped out three Ethiopian military units. The group added it was
holding six Chinese workers whom it said had been removed for their own
safety and were being treated well. The Chinse government condemned the
attack and demanded for the safe release of the hostages.
the Chinese are employees of Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau
(ZPEB), a Chinese petroleum company contracted by a company called
South West Energy. In December 2005, South West Energy signed a
petroleum exploration and development agreement with the Ethiopian
Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) to prospect for oil in the Ogaden
basin. The company took an exploration area in Degahbur zone which
covers 21,187 sq. km of land.
Ashenafi, an American of Ethiopian origin, is the founder and owner of
South West Energy. The company is licensed in Hong Kong. Last year it
hired the Chinese petroleum company, ZPEB for seismic survey work and
three months ago it began to conduct the seismic survey. Most of the
Ethiopians killed in the attack were daily laborers, guards and other
support staff. Some members of the defense force were also killed
during the surprise attack.
Ashenafi was not available for comment. The remains of the nine Chinse
will be flown to China today. ZPEB also works for the Malaysian oil and
gas company, Petronas, which prospects for oil in the Gambella and the
Ogaden basins. Petronas, which took the Gambella basin on concession on
June 2003, subcontracted the exploration work to ZPEB.
2004 ZPEB began to conduct seismic survey in the Gambella basin,
located in the western part of Ethiopia close to the Sudanese border.
Last year, ZPEB drilled the first exploration well in the Gambella
basin in Gigaw locality. ZPEB further commenced the drilling of the
second exploration well in Gambella in another locality called
Jakaranda last February. In August 2005 Petronas acquired three
exploration blocks in the Ogaden basin. The exploration areas are found
in Genale, Wel Wel, Warder and Fer Fer localities. The total
exploration area covers 9100 sq km of land.
year, ZPEB entered in to another agreement with Petronas to undertake
exploration activities in Petronas's new exploration areas in the
Ogaden basin and began to collect seismic data in the exploration areas
has 157 Chinese and Ethiopian employees working in Degahbur. The
Chinese staffs ware being evacuated. Following Tuesday's attack ZPEB,
South West and Petronas have suspended operations in Ogaden.
South West Energy and Petronas had received several warnings from
unidentified individuals. The ONLF had also warned the companies to
stop operations in the Ogaden. The companies recently expressed their
security concerns to officials of the MME. Officials of MME informed
the Ministry of Defense of the security concerns. Other companies which
have exploration areas in the Ogaden are worried by the incident.
a company licensed in the Netherlands and based in Malaysia, acquired
an exploration area covering 29,865 sq km of land in December 2005. It
has been processing geological data collected from the exploration
area. The company has leased an aircraft to conduct airborne magnetic
and gravity surveys. It had planned to start the airborne survey next
In a statement sent to
The Reporter, Pexco
said at the moment it was not in a position to discuss its ongoing
exploration program in Ethiopia. "It is our intention to work with the
MME and other oil exploration companies operating in Ethiopia to find a
secure way forward," the statement said. "With respect to the April 24
armed attack on the seismic operations being carried out in the Ogaden,
Pexco Exploration (East Africa) NV would like to express its deepest
sympathy to the companies affected, and the family and friends of the
deceased and missing," it added.
Swedish company called Lundin has also acquired an exploration area
covering 24,420 sq km of land in Ogaden in November last year. Lundin
did not yet start operations in the field.
of South West Energy, Petronas and Pexco are holding talks with
officials of MME. As the minister of MME, Alemayehu Tegenu, is out of
the country on a working visit, state minister Sinknesh Ejigu and other
officials of the MME are discussing the issue with representatives of
the petroleum companies.
Ethiopian government has blamed Eritrea for masterminding the attack.
It described the incident as a massacre committed by a terrorist group
backed by the Eritrean government. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on
Tuesday said that the incident was an organized massacre. Meles said
his government was closely following the developments. "We are thinking
how we could avoid similar incidents in the future," he said.
Ambassador Mohamoud Dirir, Minister of Culture and Tourism, told
The Reporter that while the Ethiopian government was engaged in development activities all across the nation, the Eritrean government
was trying to destabilize the country. "At a time when we are to
celebrate the Ethiopian millennium and to build the country's image
Sha'ebia is trying to disturb this effort," Ambassador Mohamoud said.
minister described Tuesday's attack as an indiscriminate killing of
innocent civilians. "The victims are innocent civilians engaged in
development activities. The foreigners came to develop our country," he
added. Ambassador Mohamoud told
The Reporter that the people in the Somali region were outraged by the massacre.
a related news, the Heads of Mission of the Ethiopia Partners Group
denounced Tuesday's attack. In a statement issued on Thursday, the
Ethiopia Partners Group (former Ambassadors Donors Group) expressed its
dismay at the incident "The Heads of Mission of the Ethiopia Partners
Group express their dismay at the massacre perpetrated in Ogaden
against Ethiopian and Chinese nationals. They condemn the killings as
well as the subsequent abductions," the statement said.
heads of mission called for the safe release of the abducted
individuals. "They reiterate their belief that the resolution of
disagreements should be sought through peaceful means," the statement