Eritrea has accused Ethiopia of launching an attack at the countries’ territory highlighting persistent tension over a boundary dispute that triggered war in 1998-2000. Ethiopia said the situation was calm on Monday.
Ethiopia “unleashed an attack against Eritrea on the Tsorona Central Front. The purpose and ramifications of this attack are not clear,” the Eritrean government said in a short statement issued on Sunday night.
Tsorona is a town south of the Eritrean capital Asmara and close to the frontier. The area saw intense fighting during the earlier border war.
Ethiopia’s Information Minister Getachew Reda, who was out of the country, told the BBC he was not aware of any fighting.
However, after Eritrea made its accusation public, he, as always, disputed the account saying Eritrea started the fight. “Their forces were promptly repulsed. They were given a proper response,” Getachew Reda said, adding that the situation was quiet on Monday.
Residents on the Ethiopian side of the border reported hearing gunfire and seeing a large movement of troops and artillery towards the border.
“It did not stop until this morning around 9 a.m. (2.00 a.m. ET),” he said, asking not to be identified. He added that he had seen Ethiopian military vehicles and troops moving along the central stretch of the militarized border.
It’s not clear why the fighting has erupted now as neither country has issued any reasons.
Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Ghebremeskel had no immediate additional comment when asked about casualties or other details of the attack. Ethiopian government officials also did not say if there were any casualties.
Eritrea says such an ongoing attack and threat from Ethiopia makes extended national service essential.
As part of the Algiers peace agreement signed in 2000 both countries agreed to accept the ruling of an independent boundary commission over the location of the frontier as “final and binding“.
But after the commission ruled that the disputed town of Badme, where the conflict began, was in Eritrea, Ethiopia at first refused to agree to the border demarcation and then called for dialogue before it would implement the decision.
This was rejected by Eritrea and there has been an impasse ever since, although clashes have been rare.