ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Eritrea accused arch-foe Ethiopia on Sunday of launching attacks along their disputed border but said its troops had driven off the assault, killing 10 Ethiopian soldiers and capturing two.
The Eritrean foreign affairs ministry said soldiers from Ethiopia’s ruling Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had attacked on Friday in the Zalambesa area. Ethiopian officials denied the claims.
“In the early morning hours of January 1st 2010, TPLF soldiers launched successive attacks in the Zalambesa front and were swiftly driven back,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
Zalambesa lies in the centre of the contested frontier, over which neighbours fought a brutal war in the late 1990s.
“Ten of their soldiers (were) killed and two captured, leaving six AK-47 automatic rifles, a machine gun and communication equipment,” the statement said.
The Ethiopian government denied the claims.
“There was never an incursion from our side. It’s a diversionary tactic by the Eritrean regime to deflect attention from its domestic problems,” spokesman Shimelis Kemal told AFP.
An Eritrean rebel group earlier this week claimed they carried out raids against government positions, while another movement said it was “prepared to launch attacks” after the United Nations imposed an arms embargo and other tough sanctions on Asmara.
“The (Eritrean) government has become internationally outlawed and is bankrupt. The rebel claims indicate growing discontent from within the country,” Shimelis added.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s TPLF party is the main member of the ruling coalition and was a close ally of the Eritrean government before it fell out prior to the border war.
About 80,000 people died in the 1998-2000 border conflict, many in brutal World War I-style trench warfare.
A UN-backed boundary commission charged with demarcating the border has handed the disputed town of Badme to Eritrea but Addis Ababa has refused to recognise the ruling.
In August The Hague-based Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission ordered Asmara to pay 10 million dollars in damages sustained during the conflict, a decision Asmara has pledged to comply with.