'Significant' casualties in Eritrea-Ethiopia clash
13 June 2016, 21:01
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.
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.
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.
two remain bitter enemies, with their troops still eyeing each other
along the fortified frontier. Tensions are never far from the surface.
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.
March 2012, Ethiopia attacked an Eritrean military base, accusing the
country of supporting "terrorist activities" on its territory.
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.
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.
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.
escape describe crawling under razor wire, tiptoeing across minefields
or sneaking past armed border guards in their bid for freedom.
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
Eritrea rejected the findings as "laughable."