Ethiopia, Eritrea open new border war frontFebruary 8, 1999
Web posted at: 10:31 a.m. EST (1531 GMT)
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) -- Ethiopia army units backed by fighter planes attacked Eritrean troops on a second front on Monday in an escalation of the border conflict between the two Horn of Africa states.
Each side accused the other of firing first near Tsorona, a small Eritrean town which lies on a heavily-militarised plain between two mountain ranges and controls access to the strategic Eritrean town of Dekamhare, close to the capital Asmara.
Ethiopia said it had deployed fighter aircraft to attack Eritrean positions outside Tsorona and on the Badme front further west, the first time either side has admitted using air power in three days of fierce fighting between the former allies.
Government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse said its offensive on both fronts was in response to Eritrean attacks.
"The Ethiopian Defense Forces are engaged in a counter offensive at the Badme and Tsorona fronts," she told Reuters. "This counter-offensive is supported by fighter planes."
In Asmara, Eritrean officials said their army had killed hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers since fighting erupted on Saturday and was holding its ground on Monday.
"They are trying to attack our trenches (at Tsorona) with tanks, artillery and their troops," senior Eritrean government official Zemeret Yohannes told Reuters. "They have not reached our trenches, they have not entered the plain."
The new clashes broaden fighting that resumed on Saturday in the disputed region of Badme after an eight-month lull. They also appear to violate a U.S.-brokered moratorium on the use of air raids agreed last June.
Eritrean officials said Tsorona was the focus of fighting on the new front but that there were also clashes around the towns of Zalambessa and Alitena to the east.
In a further sign of an escalation of hostilities between the former allies, Ethiopia and Eritrea accused each other of shelling civilians on Sunday afternoon.
On Monday, Eritrea's government said Ethiopia had shelled the southern Eritrean border town of Adiquala on Sunday, killing eight civilians and slightly injuring many others.
Ethiopia admitted attacking Adiquala with heavy artillery, claiming to have demolished an Eritrean radar station in an unpopulated area five kilometers (three miles) outside the town.
It also accused Eritrea on Sunday of shelling its northern town of Adigrat, seriously injuring seven civilians.
Selome said Adigrat had been shelled on Sunday afternoon, as Eritrea responded to battlefield losses around Badme.
Eritrea also claims to have the upper hand, saying it killed 250 Ethiopian soldiers on Sunday and captured 18 prisoners.
Eritrea won peaceful independence from Ethiopia after a referendum in 1993, but the two sides came to blows last May in a dispute over their 1000-km (600-mile) border.
Ethiopia said Eritrea first bombed Adigrat on Friday and followed the air raid with a ground attack on Saturday morning in Badme, which lies about 160 km (99 miles) to the west.
But Eritrea said Ethiopia had fabricated the Adigrat raid as a pretext to launch its own invasion.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Ethiopia, Eritrea battle for 2nd day
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