Global Policy Forum

Eritrea-Ethiopia War Heats Up

Reuters/New York Times
June 28, 1999

Smara, Eritrea -- Eritrea and Ethiopia each claimed Sunday to have inflicted heavy casualties in the fresh fighting along their disputed border on the Horn of Africa.

Eritrean radio said its forces killed 850 Ethiopian soldiers, wounded 3,100 and captured 13 when the Eritreans repulsed "small scale and feeble attacks" in two sectors of the 600-mile border on Friday and Saturday.

The Ethiopian Government, in a statement issued in Addis Ababa, said its forces repelled an Eritrean attack around the Mereb River. Ethiopia said its forces killed, wounded or captured 5,950 Eritrean troops in the two days of fighting. Both sides have tended to exaggerate their numbers, and neither's assertions could be confirmed independently.

Ethiopian planes bombed the Eritrean Red Sea port of Assab on Saturday but Eritrea said the bombs caused no damage to the airport at Assab when they fell on open ground.

The fighting was only the latest in their war, which began in May 1998 over disputed strips of barren land along the ill-defined border that has separated the nations since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, with Ethiopian agreement. Thousands of soldiers have since been reported killed.

In fighting earlier this month on a front southwest of Asmara, the Eritrean capital, Eritrea said its forces killed, wounded or captured 18,000 Ethiopian soldiers. Ethiopia said it killed, wounded or captured more than 24,000 Eritreans.

Ethiopia said fighting on the front along the Mereb River resumed on Friday when Eritrea attacked and continued on Saturday. The conflicting assertions could not be verified independently.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council demanded an immediate cease-fire but similar calls have been ignored previously and diplomatic attempts to end the war have so far failed.

Both sides say they accept an Organization of African Unity initiative to halt the fighting and initiate negotiations on the contested border areas, but they differ in their interpretation of the peace formula.

More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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