By Dereje Berhanu
ADDIS ABABA , Ethiopia - Police have announced the arrest of 15 people on suspicion of terrorist offences.
According to police the suspects were cover member of legal political parties, the Oromo Federalist Party and Oromo National Congress Party, and also members of Muslim extremist groups, going under the name of Cawareje.
The authorities reported that some of the suspects were in possession of weapons when they were arrested.
The police had warned Addis Ababa residents on Wednesday of a possible plot. An announcement read: “The National Intelligence Security Service has conventional, likely information concerning an impending terrorist scheme to be carried out inside the capital.”
The police asked car hire firms to inspect the identities of their clients and called on the public to tip them off if they saw any suspicious behavior.
The Ethiopian government routinely accuses Eritrea of backing rebel groups who have bombed civilian targets in Addis Ababa .
Another political party the Government has accused is the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM). Party leader, Mr. Bulcha Demekes, told the SSI that his party's Secretary General, Mr. Bekele Jerata, and 14 other ethnic Oromos suspected of connections with the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Of these 14, four prisoners are OFDM members.
Bulcha said: “The police did not allow us to see our party secretary general. The prisoner did not even meet with his wife and legal representative. We wrote to Addis Ababa Police Commission, but we did not get any response.”
When Bulcha was asked about his party's relation with the OLF, he said: “We don't have any relations with this political party, but the Government always tries to attack and warn us off simply by presenting different accusations.”
Bulcha's party is legally registered with the Electoral Board commission and also has a place seats in Parliament.
In related news, Mr. Kebede Borena, Executive Assistant Manager of Hilton International, Addis Ababa , and his brother Degene Borena, were arrested by the police last week. Kebede from his Hilton office. As part of the same operation, the police also arrested members of the board of Awash Bank S.C. and have accused all the suspects of having OLF connections.
Mr. Eshetu Ekele, the owner of Hawi Hotel, and Mr. Asefa Tefera, an Addis Ababa University lecturer, are also being held.
Yet another of the political parties the police said have connection with the rebel group OLF is the Oromo National Congress Party (ONCP).
Party leader Merera Gudina (PhD) told SSI that the Government had been accusing the party for a long time, but he said: “When we ask the Government officials to give information about suspected members they don't.”
According to Merera, the Government considers all opposition Oromo groups to be liknkede to the OLF.
He added: “We have had more than 150 members in prison, some of them for more than two years.
“The Government's action I consider to be like preventive detention, because its aim is just to warn people from opposing the government.”
A possibility mentioned by the police is that this week's arrests could have some connection to last week's bombings in Somaliland , although they did not provide any details.
Last Wednesday, October 29, suicide bombers struck the regional palace of the President, a United Nations compound, the Ethiopian consulate and three other targets in Puntland, the northern part of Somalia. The attacks killed 23 people and injured 27.
No group has claimed responsibility, but the UN and Ethiopia have supported Somalia 's weak central government in its battle with Islamic rebels and the rebels have launched such strikes in the past to coincide with UN-led efforts to end the turmoil in the east African nation.
Somaliland has long sought international recognition as a nation state.
Ethiopia has troops in Somalia to prop up the weak Somali administration, which is battling Islamist rebels.
The Ethiopian Government has recently agreed to withdraw its troops within 90-120 days.
Source: The Sub-Saharan Informer on Monday, 10 November 2008