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Ethiopian Gov’t, Rebels Claim Win

June 29, 2002

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) _ The army declared an important victory over rebels in western Ethiopia, killing 20 and capturing more than 200 others. But rebels rejected those claims Saturday, vowing to continue their fight.

State-run newspapers published a statement from the Ministry of Information on Saturday saying the army had killed 20 rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front and captured 227 earlier this week in the western Gambella region, along the Sudanese border.

The statement claimed the army had also captured a large number of weapons, while accusing the Eritrean government of training and equipping the rebels. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year border war from 1998 to 2000, but have since reached a peace agreement.

But a rebel statement, e-mailed to news agencies, has denied the government claims and insisted they had gained ground.

``It is remembered that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a month ago in a nationally televised interview, claimed to have destroyed the entire Oromo Liberation Army in the Western zone and that the OLF is left only with fifteen fighters,″ the statement said. The regime says ``one thing today and another thing tomorrow.″

Rebel spokesman Leneho Batti said the rebels attacked Ethiopian troops near Akobo and had inflicted heavy losses.

None of the claims could be independently verified.

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