Eritrea ‘rejects Ethiopia provocation’

March 16, 2012 (BBC News) - Eritrea has said it will not be “entrapped” into retaliating after Ethiopia launched a cross-border border raid on three military bases.

“It is those who do not know the price of war who are hungry to go to war,” Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu told the AFP news agency.

Ethiopia said it attacked three military bases where rebel groups were being trained.

The two countries fought a border war from 1998 to 2000.

The United States has called on both countries to “exercise restraint and to avoid any further military action”.

The attack had raised fears that the bitter rivals could resume full-scale hostilities but Eritrea moved to quell such speculation.

“We fought enough for 30 years, and we will never be dragged into war through such hostile provocations as this,” Mr Ali told AFP.

“The people and government of Eritrea shall not entertain, and will not be entrapped by, such deceitful ploys,” a foreign ministry statement said.

It said the attack was mean to divert attention from Ethiopia’s “illegal occupation” of Eritrean territory, as well as its internal problems.

Eritrea accuses Ethiopia of refusing to withdraw from the village of Badme, where the border war began, despite The Hague-based Boundary Commission 2002 ruling that it belonged to Eritrea.

A number of people were killed and others captured when three camps were attacked up to 18km (11 miles) inside Eritrean territory, an Ethiopian defence official said but further details have not been released.

‘Hit-and-run terrorists’

In recent weeks Addis Ababa has accused Eritrea of backing Ethiopian rebels who staged a January raid in the northern Afar region that killed five Western tourists.

Two German nationals were taken hostage during that attack – there has been no official word of their condition since.

Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said the army units involved had returned to camp after “successfully completing” their mission.

He said Eritrea was harbouring “hit-and-run terrorists”, and he warned of further possible operations.

“As long as Eritrea remains a launching pad for attacks against Ethiopia, similar measures will continue to be taken,” he said.

Ethiopia is also engaged in military operations in neighbouring Somalia, where it is fighting the Islamist al-Shabab group.

Eritrea denies accusations that it backs al-Shabab.

Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia in 1952 but gained independence in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.

BBC News