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(Reuters) - Ethiopia's intelligence agency said on Monday it has detained eight members of Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist militant group who it accused of plotting to kidnap U.N. workers.
The arrests were the latest in a crackdown on people charged with having links to fighters in neighboring Somalia, where Ethiopia has deployed troops to support Mogadishu's battle against al Shabaab and its six-year insurgency.
The group wanted to abduct foreigners working for the U.N. World Food Programme and the United Nations Development Programme in Ethiopia and take them to Somalia to demand a ransom, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) said.
"The eight were caught red-handed with arms as they plotted to carry out the kidnappings," NISS said in a statement.
An Ethiopian official told Reuters the group planned to carry out the abductions in a camp for Somali refugees in the Ethiopian frontier town of Dolo Ado.
Several U.N. agencies and other humanitarian organizations operate in Ethiopia's dry Somali region that borders Somalia.
The region has also been plagued by a low-key rebellion for nearly two decades, though residents now say local rebels have largely been weakened by successive government offensives.
Monday's announcement comes two months after authorities said they arrested 15 suspected militants who were accused of being trained by al Shabaab.
An Ethiopian court convicted 10 other people in January of preparing strikes on political and economic targets in Ethiopia.
Somalia's al Shabaab group has threatened to attack Ethiopia in revenge for its military interventions.
Ethiopia fought Islamist rebels in Somalia in 2006 to 2009 and sent troops back in 2011 to fight al Shabaab, opening a third front alongside Kenyan troops and an African Union (AU)mission.
The campaign in Somalia has gained ground in the past two years. Al Shabaab, which is allied with al Qaeda, withdrew from the southern port of Kismayu in September, its last major urban stronghold.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Edmund Blair)
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February 28, 2013 (MEKELLE, Ethiopia) - In connection with the 38th founding anniversary of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has freed hundreds of prisoners who have been serving prison terms.
Accordingly, a total of 965 prisoners who met criteria set by the state Pardoning Board are freed. Among the released 33 were women.
Tigray police commission Commissioner, Zeamanuel Legesse, said no pardon grant was made to prisoners who committed series offenses, such as murder, rape or those convicted of corruption.
The commissioner called on the prisoners to learn from their past mistakes, to stay away from criminal activities and be productive citizens.
The freed prisoners have pledged to repay their society and to the country at large by actively taking part on different developmental endeavors.
During their prison stay, prisoners have received different technical and vocational trainings that could support them lead their normal life.
Ethiopia’s Pardon and Amnesty law - which intended to promote and strengthen the values of solidarity, forgiveness and national reconciliation - allows pardon grant to prisoners who have shown sincere regret for their crimes and those who demonstrated good disciplinary improvement at correction center.
Every year thousands of prisoners are released across the country as nation marks its own New Year celebration on September 11.
TPLF which is the major part of the leading party, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), was founded on14 September 1974 by a group of seven ethnic Tigrayan university students.
The movement began in Northern Tigray region turned into coalition of rebels and finally toppled the military Junta in 1991 after 17 years of bitter struggle for which tens of thousands of martyrs paid for with their lives to bring a democratic order.
Ethiopia's orthodox church has elected a new leader of the influential body in the predominantly Christian nation.
Abune Matias, 71, was Thursday named the 6th Patriarch of the church officially known as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Abune Matias, currently serving as Archbishop of the church in Jerusalem, accepted the appointment. He is highly contested due the dumped election.
The election comes amid disputes surrounding the leadership of the powerful church, which boasts of some 40 million adherents, and a long history of conflict with the central government.
The Ethiopian church was under the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. In 1959 it broke away to be independent and started appointing its leaders.