'Significant' casualties in Eritrea-Ethiopia clash

2016-06-13 18:06


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Addis Ababa - Arch-rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea traded blame on Monday for a border battle in which "significant" casualties were reported, one of the worst clashes since the end of a 1998-2000 border war.

"There were significant casualties on both sides, but more on the Eritrean side," Ethiopian government spokesperson Getachew Reda told AFP.

He said the battle that began on Sunday was one of the most serious in recent years, noting that while the two sides had exchanged gun fire in the past, this clash was on a far larger scale. The fighting had reportedly calmed on Monday.

"We used to take precautionary measures against this regime, but this time was much more important in terms of magnitude than the measures that were taken so far," Getachew added.

Both sides blamed the other.

Ethiopia on Sunday "unleashed an attack against Eritrea on the Tsorona Central Front", Eritrea's ministry of information said in a statement.

Getachew instead claimed the fighting started when Eritrean artillery fired shells across the border.

"Eritrean forces started shelling our positions, including civilian ambulances, and we responded," said Getachew, who had initially claimed no knowledge of the fighting.

Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after three decades of war, but returned to battle in 1998-2000.

Fortified frontier

The two remain bitter enemies, with their troops still eyeing each other along the fortified frontier. Tensions are never far from the surface.

"The purpose and ramifications of this attack are not clear," Eritrea said, adding it "will issue further statements on the unfolding situation".

Eritrea and Ethiopia have long traded accusations of attacks and of backing rebels to needle each other.

In March 2012, Ethiopia attacked an Eritrean military base, accusing the country of supporting "terrorist activities" on its territory.

In February, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of being behind anti-government protests in the Oromia region last year which led to a violent clampdown by the government in Addis Ababa.

The two countries remain at odds over the flashpoint town of Badme, awarded to Eritrea by a United Nations-backed boundary commission, but still controlled by Ethiopia.

It was not immediately possible to verify independently the scale of the clashes and exact reason they started.

Eritrea's media is ranked below North Korea as worst in the world for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.

However, opposition Eritrean websites, run from abroad but with contacts inside the country, reported there were clashes along the border.

"Each side appears to be calling up reinforcement," Awate.com website reported.

The Asmarino website carried a statement from opposition campaigners appealing for calm.

"The prospect of another war is inconceivable," the statement read.

Thousands of Eritreans risk their lives to flee the hard line regime every month according to the UN, fleeing across the border into Sudan and Ethiopia despite a shoot-to-kill policy along the frontier.

Those who escape describe crawling under razor wire, tiptoeing across minefields or sneaking past armed border guards in their bid for freedom.

Last week the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights said the government of President Isaias Afwerki, in power since 1991, was guilty of systematic enslavement, forcible conscription and other abuses.

Eritrea rejected the findings as "laughable."

Read more on:    ethiopia  |  eritrea

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.