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World - Africa

Ethiopian planes bomb Eritrean reservoir

Ethiopian soldiers patrol a hillside near the front line in the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea

Eritrea: A close look

Ethiopia: A close look

February 16, 1999
Web posted at: 2:04 p.m. EST (1904 GMT)

ASSAB, Eritrea (Reuters) -- Ethiopia and Eritrea traded artillery fire along their contested frontier on Tuesday afternoon, and Ethiopian planes dropped bombs on a water reservoir close to Eritrea's Red Sea port of Assab.

Three Ethiopian aircraft attempted to bomb the reservoir about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Assab but missed their target, Eritrean officials and independent witnesses said.

"They could not kill anything ... except maybe a wandering ostrich," Lt. Col. Alem Seged told Reuters after the attack.

Ethiopia said the bombing was in response to earlier Eritrean shelling, although journalists near the front line said they had not heard any heavy artillery fire by late afternoon.

Ethiopian government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse said Ethiopia's air attacks had inflicted heavy damage.

"Of course, you don't expect the Eritreans to admit their losses," she told Reuters.

Assab is 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the Ethiopian border and the latest front line in the border war between the two Horn of Africa neighbors.

The reservoir, which also was attacked Sunday, is the main source of piped water for Assab, which lies in the hot and dry lowlands at Eritrea's southeastern extreme.

Ethiopia: Eritrea must withdraw from occupied land

The conflict between the two countries flared up February 6 in the contested Badme region, a sparsely populated patch of mountainous land along their 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) frontier.

It quickly spread to a front near the highland town of Tsorona, south of Eritrea's capital, Asmara, and fighting started on the frontier close to Assab on Sunday. The Badme and Tsorona fronts were quiet Tuesday, officials said.

Ethiopia says it will fight until Eritrea withdraws from territory it occupied last May during the first round of the war.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in May 1993 with Ethiopia's blessing, but relations quickly soured.

At the root of the war lies a dispute about colonial maps drawn up by the Italians who ruled Eritrea in the first half of the century. Economic rivalry and fierce national pride have also fueled the conflict.

The port of Assab was a vital conduit for landlocked Ethiopia's trade before last May when the Ethiopian government diverted most of its trade to neighboring Djibouti.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Bombing raids renew Ethiopian-Eritrean fighting
February 14, 1999
Cease-fire calls ignored in Ethiopia-Eritrea war
February 12, 1999
Call for cease-fire falls flat in Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict
February 11, 1999
U.N. calls for cease-fire to stop 'disaster' in Horn of Africa
February 10, 1999
Eritrea claims advantage in border war with Ethiopia
February 9, 1999
Ethiopia, Eritrea open new border war front
February 8, 1999

United Nations Home Page
Department of African Studies
Ethiopia Page
Eritrea Page
Government of Eritrea
Eritrean Network Information Center
United Front of Ethiopians - Ethiopian National Congress
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