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Attack Stirs Ethiopia, Eritrea Tensions

By SOLOMON MOORE NAIROBI—Tensions rose between Ethiopia and Eritrea on Wednesday, after officials from the two hostile east African neighbors blamed each other for the killing of five European tourists along their border. Ethiopian spokesman Bereket Simon


NAIROBI—Tensions rose between Ethiopia and Eritrea on Wednesday, after officials from the two hostile east African neighbors blamed each other for the killing of five European tourists along their border.

Ethiopian spokesman Bereket Simon said gunmen who carried out Monday’s attack in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia, about 25 kilometers from the Eritrean border, near the active Erta Ale volcano, were members of “subversive groups trained and armed by the Eritrean government.” He didn’t offer evidence to support his claim.

Eritrea’s foreign ministry called the accusation a “ludicrous” smear campaign, saying in a statement that Ethiopia has long been host to home-grown, armed opposition groups. Eritrean officials said the attack took place in Ethiopian territory, and is an Ethiopian matter.

A European official said a group of European tourists came under attack from an armed group between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. local time on Monday. The official didn’t identify the armed group or its affiliation. Ethiopian and European officials said several of the tourists were taken captive.

A representative of Diamir Adventure Travel of Dresden, Germany, confirmed that the company had been involved, but declined to provide details of the attack, the number of travelers affected or the victims’ nationalities. European officials said the five dead included nationals from Germany, Austria and Hungary.

Twelve members of the tourist group had been rescued and were being flown by an Ethiopian helicopter to Addis Ababa, according to Theresa Schönfeld, a spokeswoman with Germany’s Foreign Ministry, who confirmed that at least two Germans were killed by gunmen.

Ms. Schönfeld said that she was relying on Ethiopian government sources for information about the attack.

The European officials said they still weren’t sure of the identities of all of the tourists Wednesday, and couldn’t say how many the gunmen still held captive. It was also unclear whether the tourists had been camping at the time of the attack, or hiking at night, as groups in the hot region sometimes do.

The incident has heightened frictions between two countries that bear intense ill will toward each other. The neighbors were one country until Eritrea declared its independence in 1993, fought a two-year border war that left tens of thousands dead, and have traded rhetorical barbs since the conflict ended in 2000. Both rivals have also backed armed groups inside strife-torn Somalia.

Wild and remote, the Afar region is among the hottest areas on earth. There are no roads, towns or cellular phone services in the vicinity. The site is best known for the discovery there, in 1974, of the remains of a 3.5-million-year-old human ancestor called Lucy.

Adventure travelers have also been drawn to a chain of lava lakes in the area. Dresden’s Diamir has led tours in the Afar region since 2006 without problems, said marketing director Thomas Mach. He said Diamir avoids regions identified in German travel advisories, but that the foreign ministry hadn’t issued such an advisory at the time of the attack.

Austria, however, had issued travel advisories for Afar since 2007, when five British Embassy staffers and 13 Ethiopians were kidnapped in the area. Ethiopian officials say their security forces averted an attempted attack on tourists in Afar in 2008. Land mines left over from the Ethiopia and Eritrea’s conflicts are also known to have harmed visitors in Afar.

“There’s been a valid travel warning specifically for this border region since 2007 on the basis of incidents over years been both politically and or criminally motivated, although we’re not sure who is being the attack this time,” said Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky Tiefenthal.

Among other issues, Ethiopia says Eritrea supports al Shabaab, the Islamist militia that controls vast tracts of Somalia, but Eritrea denies that.

The United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea in 2009 for its alleged support of al Shabaab. This week, the United Nations cleared Eritrea of accusations leveled by Kenyan officials that it recently sent air shipments of weapons to al Shabaab in order to help the Islamist militia fight African Union and Kenyan troops in Somalia. Eritrean officials renewed calls for an end to the embargo after the U.N. cleared the country of charges that it had air-dropped weapons in Somalia.

Ethiopian troops have entered from Somalia’s western border to fight al Shabaab militants. Ethiopian forces are now occupying several towns including Beledweyne, Somalia, that were formerly held by militants.

Wall Street Journal

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  • SINGAPO-ERITREAN January 19, 2012

    Remember on may 6 ,1998 when Woyane “invaded” us ,by withdrawing the place it was administering & remember when we “defeated” them by retreating few kilometres towards Eritrea. And do you remember how “we” fundraised millions dollars to march to Addis Ababa in 3 days . We may have to sell our Taxis to defeat Woyane again, this time we should make it whithin a day & half ,because Woyane has constructed & repaired a good number of the roads , I mean Isaias has not changed , since he started Banditry……oops I mean …struggle.
    So Woyane , here we come again to give you Another “Mekhalf defeat”…………hi idiots “ane k´a nmklkhal hager klte ShiH dollar hibe aleKhu….I …LLLLLLLLLLL.

    • Abdi January 19, 2012

      You are such a g**,wondering how dear you call urself Eritrean?leqlaq agame.

      • SINGAPO-ERITREAN January 19, 2012

        I know the truth hurts .And you are right to call me AGAME ,because the Agames of Ethiopia ,tell the truth like me. While PFDJ lies ,and the lie that causes death . ARE YOU SURE ,YOU AREERITREAN ,BECAUSE ,YOU UNDERSTOOD MY HIDDEN MESSAGE. I return the favor and give you the honorable title AGAME ,BECAUSE YOU AT LEAST HAVE BRAIN.I USED TO THINK , I AM THE ONLY ERITREAN WITH WISDOM ,NOW ,WE ARE THREE ,YOU,PAPA ISAIAS & I .
        thanks for the compliment .But, I want you to know , I am Eritrean Agame .

      • GOOD MAN January 19, 2012

        Abdi, Abdi, Abdi.You and your agame stuff, everyone is bored with your grubbiness. your problem is you are center in ego. You say I am without knowing who you are. You are false, because you do not know who you are, And unless you know, how can you say I am, I am sure you are not aware of yourself, because of that you surrender to your master Iseyas. I think you share the same booze with him, of-course from his leftover. Abdi, if you bring yourself to reality, I promise to give your freedom, otherwise you will be crucified with your master Iseyas.

        • Abdi January 19, 2012

          Anta hawey ask him why he chose the name Singapo-Eritrean?what message that gives you as an eritrean(Im assuming ) btw i followed them here and in many other sites they like to call theselves name like, barentu,qahawta,akele etc inorder to create gaps among us,so i have the right to call them Agames atleast to let them that we know who are they.
          But why you are so keen to defend them?hope you are not fooling yourself by thinking that. they are working for ur good and your
          countrys?libi tgray twyway!!

      • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

        Abdi, you have a big problem, do you know that Agame are respected people in respected country under respected government? that is a big problem. you are under Mafia,ignorant group and you are blaming others, aren’t you shame?

    • hggum brhan January 20, 2012

      kodaff aga me lomi beless eritra ab ed wannatatu atiyu eyu hgi nska etekilka nb amharu oro;somal,kedka tray hassu,srek,adenagr,ms weyane konka hery::if
      ethiopia starts war agan that is the end of ethiopia.and you will back to komal,tukan chikee,mekera.real ethiopian will takeback power.u..tigrean thik for futuer.haw youcan look to eritrea.just thik abaut (dka abay tgray)denkoro agame kkkkkkk!!!!!

      • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

        you are emotional child. you need to investigate more.

    • HGDF January 20, 2012

      I have been reading some of your posts now. It is making me say “Anafira qokah zeyfelits ayhadanayn” Starting from your nickname and the issues you raise,I can tell that you don’t wish any good thing to Eritrea. First of all You shouldn’t wish war and speculate what should happen if it breaks a war. And secondly you don’t undermine the contribution of our people and the sacrifice of our defence forses in the 1998 war to defend their country. No Eritrean could call our struggle banditry like you did. Thirdly the roads constructed by the weyanes it is for them, we dont have problem how to construct roads.

      • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

        I hate your name. Even devil has rejected this name. kindly change your name becouse we are removing PFDJ from the world poletical parties dictionery. 2nd our enemy is inside the country and not Weyane. if you are for peace and prosperity make sure to stand for free democratic Eritrea. PFDJ supporters are only those who had bad history so if you are innocent that is not your place. go out of that camp.

        • HGDF January 20, 2012

          If you know your enemy, no need to tell people who your enemy is. Take action on him. I don’t need to tell you who my enemy is. I just take actions which make him sleepless. No need to talk what history every Eritrean has. Because when EPLF liberated Eritrea they said Eritreans shouldn’t waste their time blaming each other as to who has contributed most. Because no contribution is good enough compared to those sacrified their lives. But people who were responsible for lives and properties lost during the struggle were held accountable and they either have to pay their debts or stay in exile for ever praying every evil thing for Eritrae.

          • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

            I am only telling you to save your life. about me, thanks god I have enough record in PFDJ office that shows how much I have destroyed their camp. but when I get chance I like to tell people like you to be out of the war at least if they don’t fight. you know that saving people is another type of war. if you go out of that camp then you will not pay your life and you will let me work less. think about it. if you don’t stand in front and let PFDJ leader ship face me the cost will be less sure PFDJ leadership is coward. This is the reason I love to see innocent people leave PFDJ. if not remember I am not going to let you support PFDJ and I will remove you with him. take my words.

      • SINGAPO-ERITREAN January 21, 2012

        hgdf ,
        I am not undermining anybody …..If I call Alshebab a terrorist , I am not underminning it , I am definning it. The fighters/teghadelti believe they are doing Allah´s work . But overwhelmingly the moslem believers do not believe in this organization. HOW ABOUT THOSE WHO WERE FOECED TO BE TEGADELTI/BANDITS, in Meida ???

  • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

    I hope and wish this will not go further. I pray to the almighty God not to let two brothers kill each other. This is danger.

    PFDJ is a colletion of crazy men and women and they may have done this but we can’t blame and make sure of this crime. but why suffer with this dirty group? why don’t we clean this garbage and live in peace?

  • danny happy January 20, 2012

    we need ones and forever tough war killing the isaias regim and supportes pf isaias i can’t wait to see trart the war and see isaias dead with his ignorant brain wash suporter

    • HGDF January 20, 2012

      Are you planing to take part in that war or waiting for robets to do it for you?

      • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

        Danny, we are only trying to minimize the cost but promise the war will start between democratic forces and HGDEG soon. What I want is those PFDJ supporters in diaspora. living in democratic countries and supporting HGDF is the worst crime. Opposition should continue recording. I want those guys.

  • tesfaldet January 20, 2012

    ijast read avery funny joke article in WWW .MESKEREM .COM there is MELESS picture & he says ethiopia will take what ever action necessary to stop the regime of eritrea if the world fail to do so did MELES sayin this for real he can say that to the fragil SOMALIAN GOV OR WEAK DIJUPTY GOV did he know that he say to eritrean millitary in the 1997 19998 2000 border wor SKUNIS JENTRA AWALU then he ask for cice fire after eritre is redy to marsh to mekele now ihave advise to MELES think twoyes before that is your end jast sit & beg for hand out from your MASTERS ANAFRA QOQAH ZEYFELTSI AY HADANAYN so dont be fool by this yang eritreans live their countrys think that no one is there to difend the countrys whwen it comes for the securty of eritrea eritreans in side & out side are HADE HIZBI HADE LIBI one more thing if MELES start wor eritrea is not going to fight him eritrea will anlish the OROMO THE OGADEN THE EDM & THE MEBSAE LEKATIT THE tgray move ment then eritrea will finsh him for good

    • Kokhob Selam January 20, 2012

      Tesfaldet, that was before not now. pray the war will not start but if so, no one will stand and fight. those in diaspora are opportunists and they will not come with their children to fight. those inside are even praying to see the end of PFDJ.

      Who is crazy and fool to die for PFDJ? if few let them die and will be forgotten only. If war start between these two then remember PFDJ will go forever. But we should remove PFDJ not Ethiopians.

      • Abdi January 21, 2012

        So you want your amharay adgi husband to rule the country again?huh that’s on our dead bodies if that is your dream pls wake up cos it will never come true,HGDEF is there and will be there forever.

  • January 20, 2012

    Well, you know what! I would love to see Ethiopia and Eritrean go for a war now, that will be the end of Eritrea (PFDJ) Me as Eritrean I am sick and tired of the PFDJ who are killing all my people and nothing is been done so far. I see Eritreans eating Eritreans and you know that they love doing that, so I say WAR, WAR, WAR, WAR, WAR, I want to see WAR, Eritreans cheap to die right because no one care about them. If you want chip, liver, or heart, and kidney when ask the Bedouin man they can get it for you for the price of £20. What I am trying to say is who cares about Eritrean, Tell me man tell me???

  • Zeray January 20, 2012

    Let’s face the facts. Ethiopian government is showing more hospitality to Eritreans than PFDJ government to their own people. Many Eritreans have switched their vacation and business endeavors to Ethiopia, and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport has become a welcoming airport to thousands of Eritreans every month. Moreover, tens and thousands of Eritreans are fleeing to Ethiopia and have made Ethiopia their home now. Universities are giving Eritreans scholarship and life goes on……….Some of you skeptics will say “it is all politics”. Oh! well which politics do you choose? The politics of suffering or the politics of hospitality? Take you pick…

    We need a change of leadership and democracy in Eritrea so that the “gold mind of Asab Airport” can start to bring in billions of dollars a year due to good relationship and diplomacy with Ethiopia. Moreover, peace needs to be established with good people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Tourism needs to flourish. Can you imagine how many Ethiopians will flow to the Red Sea and other parts for vacation. These two activities alone would make Eritreans economically independent. But first PFDJ and Issays must step-down.

  • Teazeb January 21, 2012

    I agree with Zeray! Stop your bizare thinking if you are really an Eritrean! PFDJ , HIGDEF etc…..what have they done for us….suffering…..taking our money on the name of defence…..selling our land to the diaspora……taking the lands from our farmeres…..taking the licenses of our construction enginers…..forcing to leave the country so many intellectuals be it experinced doctors……..killing and arresting their known democrat tegadelti……..poisoning their ministers who were suspected of being unfriendly to Isaias………the list go on and go on………….what a country we became?……….what a shameful generation we became…….I hate to introduce myself as an Eritrean……….I was prooud and the world proud of us before…..what happen now, ask HIGDEF!

    • Abdi January 21, 2012

      What happened is you became cheap sellout who wants to grab power by any means even by selling his own sister and mother,
      just to remind you eritreans are there for Eritrea and will see what you will get from clapping to woyane,bokhbakh metaqeEi.

      • Zebib January 21, 2012


        I’ll bet my last dollar that it is either a lousy house or a tiny shop that makes you squirm like this! What a pathetic guy! The likes of you made personages like Kim Jong Il on their own image and would die defending it rather than listen to their inner voice knocking with truth. The great ***licker that you are, you will probably switch allegiance and jump into the winner’s wagon like lightening when the occasion arises. You are there for us to behold the weakest and most malicious in the human psyche.

  • January 21, 2012

    Mr.Kahsay it’s not z case as u said.Ethiopian gov’t can do anything simply 4 its survival on its throne.I’m an Ethiopian.I wish if it hadn’t been done by z name of my country;but that is the fact.Meles doesn’t care about anything Only might about his wife.We as z people if there is anything coming towards Z DAMAGE OF Ethiopian gov’t today, never hesitate we will support that group.U r on z margin to be demolished from z surface.