Ethiopia’s Ogaden rebels warned oil companies interested in the volatile but energy-rich region on Wednesday not to be lulled into a "false sense of security" by the government, saying their forces were well armed.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which carried out a deadly attack on a Chinese-run oilfield in the area bordering Somalia, said the government had lost control of Ogaden. The rebels warned oil companies to stay away.
"Pursuing oil and natural gas exploration activities in Ogaden at this stage can only be characterised as gross corporate irresponsibility given the war crimes being committed," the group said in a statement.
In the attack on the Chinese-run oilfield in April, the rebels killed 74 people and kidnapped seven workers.
The rebels say they are fighting for self-determination for their home region. But Addis Ababa accuses them of being a terrorist group supported by arch-foe Eritrea.
The government says a recent campaign by the Ethiopian military to uproot the ethnic Somali guerrilla movement from the oil rich region had been successful. The rebels deny that.
"Recent claims that the government has been able to realise military gains are designed to give a false sense of security to oil companies being urged … not to abandon their exploration plans," the rebel group said.
The Ethiopian army has deployed heavily in the region in an effort to route out the rebels and restore order to the region.
"The regime of (Prime Minister) Meles Zenawi does not have control of Ogaden," the rebels added.