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Ethiopia Attacks Military Posts Inside Eritrea

Ethiopia said Thursday it has attacked several military posts inside neighboring Eritrea, marking the first such direct military action to be undertaken by any of the two rival nations since the end of 1998-2000 war.

"The Ethiopian National Defense Force has entered into Eritrea, 16 kilometers from the border of Ethiopia, and launched a successful attack against military posts that have been used by subversive groups organized, supported, financed and trained by the Eritrean government," Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said Thursday.

Accusing Eritrea of supporting and training "subversive groups" to carry out "hit-and-run" operations inside Ethiopia, Kemal said: "As long as Eritrea remains a launching pad for attacks against Ethiopia, similar measures will continue to be taken."

He added that the camps and military posts targeted in the latest cross-border military operation "were used by anti-Ethiopian forces launching attacks inside Ethiopia, similar with the recent attack taken against European tourists."

He was apparently referring to a rebel attack on group of foreign tourists on the slopes of the famed Erta Ale volcano on January 18. Five foreign tourists, including two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian were killed in the attack, while the rebels also abducted two German tourists.

Soon after the incident, Ethiopia blamed militants armed and trained by the Eritrean government for the attack on the tourist group and promised to take "whatever action is necessary" against Eritrea over the killings.

Eritrea, however, denied any involvement in the incident and said Ethiopia's reaction to the attack on the foreign tourists was in line with its general practice of blaming all such attacks on the Eritrean government.

The two abducted German tourists were released last week by a little-known Ethiopian rebel group calling themselves the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF). The group said it had handed over the two hostages to local Afar elders and German embassy officials on March 5. But their claim is yet to be confirmed.

Relations between the two neighboring African nations have been tense ever since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The ties worsened after a border conflict broke out between the two in 1998 over disputes related to border and trade-related matters.

It is estimated that some 80,000 people were killed in the two-year conflict, which also displaced some 750,000 from their homes. The conflict ended in 2000 by an Algiers peace deal, which also led to the setting up of the Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission and the the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ("EEBC"). Nevertheless, the border dispute that triggered the war remains unresolved.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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