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Ethiopian group appeals for aid in arid east

A rebel group in Ethiopia is appealing for international aid in an ethnically Somali region where the group says drought and a government ban on international aid groups have led to the deaths of children and the elderly.

Abdirahman Mahdi, spokesman of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which is fighting for greater autonomy, said Friday the population in the semiarid eastern Somali region badly needs water.

Mahdi said "scores" of children and elderly have died. He did not have precise figures and said local government officials are afraid to speak publicly. Ethiopian officials didn't answer calls seeking comment.

A March 7 U.N. humanitarian report said the water shortage has worsened in the Somali region, and that the price of water has increased 12-fold.