ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – Gunmen shot dead a Briton subcontracted to the Malaysian oil giant Petronas in Ethiopia’s conflict-wracked Ogaden region, officials said Friday.
The shooting happened Monday near Danod town and Ethiopian officials are carrying out a full investigation, the British Foreign Office said.
The 39-year-old geologist worked for IMC Geophysics International Ltd, which is contracted to do seismic work for Petronas.
“We have reports that the incident has occurred and is an act of banditry,” said Ethiopia’s communications minister, Bereket Simon. “The deceased did not take security measures and was driving alone. Following the act the local militia had confronted the perpetrators and had taken measures on them. We understand that the act was not politically motivated.”
A London-based spokesman for the Ogadeni rebels fighting the Ethiopian government said they were not responsible. The Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked a Chinese-owned oil exploration field in April 2007, killing 74 people.
“As far as we know, our fighters are not involved in such barbaric attack,” said Abdirahman Mahdi. “Our troops do not have permission to target foreign civilians. But we will investigate the circumstances that led to the man’s death.”
The rebels are ethnic Somalis who have been fighting for independence since 1984. They have warned against any investment in eastern Ethiopia that could benefit the U.S.-allied government.
Ethiopia does not produce oil but Chinese companies and Petronas have signed exploration deals.