Update: Conflicting reports on the latest Ethio-Eritrean fighting
A breaking-news posted on May 31 in this blog (Danielberhane’s Blog) reported a major clash between Ethiopian National Defence Forces(ENDF) and the Eritrean army.
ENDF sources confided to this blog, on anonymous basis, that the clash took place on May 26, following an attack by an Eritrean elite force estimated between 2000-3000 troops.
The clash took place after the Eritrean troops tried to takeover ENDF posts located few kilometers inside Eritrea, around Badme area, on the northern side of Ethiopia. (Read more at Breaking-news | Ethiopian army crushed Eritrean elite force)
Neither country officially commented on the incident to date.
However, at least two Ethiopian and one Eritrean news outlets presented apparently conflicting stories this weekend.
Assena.com – June 2,2012
The Eritrean website, Assena.com, claimed, citing unnamed sources, that the clash took place on May 25 at dawn following an attack by ENDF.
According to Assena, ENDF captured an area known as Deda, ‘located in Elala area, western Eritrea’, after a ‘medium-scale’ fighting, in which 20 Eritrea troops were ‘harmed’.
The Eritrean army didn’t launch a counter-attack to date and the area is still controlled by ENDF, according to the news.
Though an opposition leaning website, Assena presented the news with a nationalist undertone and accusing Pres. Isias Afeworki government for failing to protect the nation’s territory. Assena emphasized the fact that the incident took place on a date following Eritrea’s independence day. (Read Assena’s news in Tigrinya language here).
Note that: The specific location of Deda reffered to by Assena is not clear. A decade old map shows a town named Deda, about 50 km deep inside Eritrea and 13 km north of Barentu town, the capital of Gash-Barka region – one of the 8 regions of Eritrea.
On the other hand, a recent news on the Eritrea’s government website indicates that there is an Elala administrative area, Shambuko sub-zone, in Gash Barka region. Though Elala couldn’t be located on map, Shambuko town is few kilometers to the northern tip of the Ethio-Eritrean common border.
It seems likely that the reference to Deda is either a typo or a place with a similar name exists nearby Shambuko. (See the map below)
Negadras newspaper – June 2, 2012
A brief news item on the Ethiopian private press, Negadras, indicated that the clash began on May 25 and continued for a one and half days ‘on border areas’ in the northern side of Ethiopia.
However, it said that Ethiopian police and militia hurt during the initial fighting were sent to nearby hospitals.
The news indicated that ENDF’s 5th mechanized regiment, which was around Gondar and Bahirdar cities (western Ethiopia), was mobilized soon after the fighting began.
The newspaper didn’t clearly state which side initiated the fighting. However, the above quoted reports of causality and troop movement implies that ENDF was on the defensive.
(Negadras is an Amharic language weekly and not available online.)
Ethiopian Reporter Newspaper – June 3, 2012
The Amharic language bi-weekly, Ethiopian Reporter, on the other hand, pushed back the date of the incident to May 24, 2012.
The news claimed that ENDF entered Eritrean border on her independence day and inflicted major losses on an Eritrean army brigade positioned around Badme area, on the northern side of Ethiopia.
Scores of Eritrean troops were killed and injured, while several senior officers, some with the rank of Major, surrendered.
ENDF conducted the military assault in retaliation to recent repeated kidnapping of Ethiopian mine workers from Tigray region, northern Ethiopia, by Eritrean army, according to Ethiopian Reporter. (Read Ethiopianreporter’s news in Amharic language here).
There is a seemingly irreconcilable contradiction between this blog’s May 31 breaking news, the June 2 news reports by Assena and Negadras and the June 3 news from Ethiopian Reporter. Though, it is likely that all the four contain different bits of one big story. It is also indicative of the level of secrecy at which the two government’s operate.
[Updates will be posted on this blog as soon as possible.]
Map of Ethio-Eritrea border (the references in red and blue are mine)