Ethiopia’s Ogaden rebels warned oil companies interested in the volatile but energy-rich region not to be lulled into a “false sense of security” by the government, saying their forces were well armed.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) carried out a deadly attack on a Chinese-run oilfield in the area bordering Somalia in April in which they killed 74 people and kidnapped seven workers.  ONLF said the government had lost control of Ogaden and warned oil companies to stay away.

“Pursuing oil and natural gas exploration activities in Ogaden at this stage can only be characterised as gross corporate irresponsibility given the war crimes being committed,” the group said in a statement.

The government says a recent campaign by the Ethiopian military to uproot the ethnic Somali guerrilla movement from the oil rich region had been successful. The rebels deny that.

“Recent claims that the government has been able to realise military gains are designed to give a false sense of security to oil companies being urged … not to abandon their exploration plans,” the rebel group said.