The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an Ethiopian rebel group, is opposed to any oil exploration in the Somali region.
In 2007 the movement attacked and killed 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese working in the oil sector in the town of Abole.
Hassan Abdilahi, spokesperson of the group said the exploration by the Canadian firm is currently being carried out in three sites of the Ogaden region, which borders Somalia.
The Canadian firm’s exploration was being carried out “without the interest the Ogaden people,” Abdilahi said.
He said the region was a war zone and the company, Africa Oil Corporation, should halt all operations until the rebels make peace with the government.
“ONLF calls upon African Oil to desist from paying blood money to Ethiopia until a just settlement of the conflict is achieved and the people of the Ogaden are in a position to be masters of their wealth and interest,” the rebel movement said, in a separate statement.
The Ethiopian government has, however, rejected the statement and declared the region safe.
Security has since been buttressed in the area to safeguard both foreign and local oil workers in the Somali region.
At least two ONLF factions have signed an agreement with the government, in the last couple of years, but the main front, a well-armed unit, is still militarily active in the region.
Africa Oil Corp. has three projects in Ethiopia including its operations in the Ogaden Basin.
Talks between ONLF and the Ethiopian government broke down in 2012, ending in a stalemate.
ONLF claims to be fighting for the independence of the Ogaden region, which they say is marginalised.
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