Swedish reporters held in custody in Ethiopia

Two Swedish journalists have been taken into custody by the Ethiopian army while reporting from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, an area pronounced off limits for journalists.

“Last time I spoke to them they were being pursued by car. They are in a very dangerous area,” said fellow journalist Anna Roxwall, who was the last person in contact with the missing Swedes before they disappeared, to TT.

Freelance journalist Johan Persson and photo-journalist Martin Schibbye first entered Ethiopia by crossing the border to Somalia. The purpose of the journey was to shadow the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) Guerrilla and report on the conflict between the Somali guerrillas and the Ethiopian state.

On Sunday news agency TT reported that the UK branch of the ONLF had said in a statement that a pro-Ethiopian newspaper had published the names of the missing Swedes and confirmed that they had been taken into custody by the army.

The paper also was reported saying that the two men’s guerrilla guides had been killed.

Roxwall told TT that Schibbye and Persson had promised to check in with her every third day, but since June 27th it has not been possible for her or for their families to get in touch with them.

Abdi Mahdi, who heads of the UK branch of the ONLF organization in London told TT on Sunday evening that he had been in contact with the reporters three days ago.

“I spoke to them when they were on their way into Ogaden, and we provided them with guides and directions. The plan was for them to tour the whole area but when we didn’t hear from them we began to worry,” Mahdi told TT.

Later on Sunday night it was confirmed by Ethiopian authorities that Ethiopian soldiers had killed 15 ONLF rebels in the Ogaden region.

Schibbye and Persson, who accompanied them, were reported to have sustained minor injuries in the clash between guerrilla and government forces.

“15 rebels, all armed, were killed and six were injured. Two Swedish reporters sustained minor injuries during the fighting,” Shimelis Kemal, spokesman for the Ethiopian government told news agency Reuters on Sunday.

He added that the Swedes were currently held in custody but were receiving treatment for their injuries.

Roxwall and the families of the missing journalists had informed the Swedish Foreign Ministry of the men’s disappearance, according to TT.

“We have since contacted our embassy in Addis Ababa and advised them to look into the matter,” Cecilia Julin, head of the information department at the ministry, told TT.

The ministry issued a warning against travelling in the area in 2010.

Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, currently in Almedalen for Sweden’s annual political week, has received no exact information about the two reporters and doesn’t know what the Swedish government can do to help them.

“We will have to see what we can do if it comes to that,” said Reinfeldt said to TT.

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