ADDIS ABABA (Somalilandpress) — A British geologist working for an oil company who was shot dead in Ethiopia, has been named by the Foreign Office as Jason Read.
The 39-year-old, who was from the Portsmouth area, was killed during an ambush on Monday near Danot in the conflict-stricken Ogaden region.
He worked for IMC Geophysics International – which was subcontracted to Malaysian oil giant Petronas.
The company has said it was “shocked and saddened” by the killing.
Mr Read was accompanied by a driver and a military escort when they were ambushed.
The others were believed to be injured after returning fire.
‘Liked and respected’
In a statement, the company said the men had been victims of an “unprovoked attack”.
It said: “Jason was working on our crew 894 which was undertaking a seismic survey on behalf of Petronas Carigali when Jason, his driver and military escort came under unprovoked attack from armed persons unknown.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy and our sincere thoughts and sympathies are with Jason’s family.
“A full investigation is under way and all appropriate authorities have been informed.
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“He was liked and respected by all with whom he worked.”
Mr Read had worked for the company since 2004 and had also spent time in Uganda and Europe.
We understand that the act was not politically motivated
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We can confirm the death of a British national on 5 April near Danot town in the Warder zone of Ethiopia.
“Next of kin have been informed and we have offered the family full consular assistance.
“The Ethiopian authorities are carrying out a full inquiry and we are liaising closely with them.”
When news of the death first emerged, Bereket Simon, Ethiopia’s communications minister had said Mr Read had not taken the appropriate “security measures” and was driving alone.
He said: “We have reports that the incident has occurred and is an act of banditry.
“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.”
Although Ethiopia does not currently produce oil, Chinese companies and Petronas have signed deals to explore the area.
The area has seen a great deal of bloodshed as the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), formed in 1984, has fought for the independence of ethnic Somalis in the oil-rich region for some time.
It says the Somali-speaking population has been marginalised by the capital Addis Ababa.
The fighting has escalated over the past two years following an ONLF attack on a Chinese-run oil exploration field.
More than 70 people died in the attack, including Ethiopian guards and Chinese workers.
Addis Ababa calls the rebels “terrorists” and has cut off all access to the region.
But Abdirahman Mahdi, spokesman for the Ogadeni rebels, told the Associated Press news agency that as far as they were aware, “our fighters are not involved in such barbaric attacks”.
“Our troops do not have permission to target foreign civilians. But we will investigate the circumstances that led to the man’s death.”
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government has announced that a separate Ogadeni rebel group, United Western Somali Liberation Front, had agreed to surrender.
The group had tried to warn off companies from exploring the area for oil.
Source: BBC News, 11 April 2010