(AFP) — Ethiopian rebels Sunday said they had killed more than 270 government troops in fresh clashes in the volatile Ogaden region.The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group said most of the casualties stemmed from attacks on military trucks.

“In the period 26 October through 1st November these engagements resulted in over 270 troops killed with an unconfirmed number wounded,” the group said in a statement.

“Five military transport vehicles were destroyed by RPG-7s. The transport vehicles were full of troops when they were struck resulting in a high number of casualties,” it added.

The reports could not be independently verified as journalists and aid workers have repeatedly been blocked from accessing vast swathes of the volatile region in recent months. Ethiopian officials often deny such claims.

The Ethiopian army launched a crackdown in the region, about the same size as Britain with a population of about four million, following an attack by the ONLF against a Chinese oil venture in April that left 77 people dead.

Last month, the ONLF claimed its fighters had killed 390 government troops in the area. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi denied the claims and there was no independent confirmation.

Formed in 1984, the ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ogaden, whom they say have been marginalised by Addis Ababa. The eastern region borders Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia.