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Ethiopia Plane Bombs Eritrea Hamlet

February 10, 1999

ASMARA, Eritrea (AP) _ An Ethiopian plane bombed an Eritrean village full of homeless people Tuesday, killing at least five civilians as it escalated the border dispute in northeast Africa.

Two bombs landed three miles from Badme, where the latest round of fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea began Saturday. The two Horn of Africa nations are fighting over an unmarked portion of their 600-mile border.

The fighting first flared in May, killing 1,000 people before ending two weeks later in a tense standoff. U.S. officials had brokered a moratorium on airstrikes, but the deal appeared abandoned Tuesday.

In Washington, President Clinton expressed concern Tuesday over the fighting and urged Ethiopia to refrain from further air attacks. ``A peaceful solution can and must be found,″ he said.

An Associated Press photographer and television cameraman watched an Ethiopian Antonov aircraft drop two bombs just before dawn Tuesday on the village of Lailaideda, where Eritrean civilians deported from Ethiopia had taken refuge.

But reports on fighting elsewhere were difficult to confirm, with both sides making contradictory claims.

The Eritrean government reported Tuesday that its forces had killed more than 1,500 Ethiopian soldiers and wounded another 3,000 in fighting Monday near the border at Tsorena, 60 miles south of Asmara.

The government also claimed to have disabled at least three Ethiopian brigades in fighting at the Badme-Shiraro front, 95 miles southwest of Asmara.

But in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, government spokeswoman Selome Tadesse denied Eritrea’s version of the fighting around Tsorena. She said Ethiopian forces had captured Konin and Konito _ which she said were two Eritrean strongholds overlooking Tsorena.

Selome also denied Eritrean reports that their forces still hold Geza Gerelasie _ known to Ethiopians as Geza Gersale _ even after journalists visited the village Monday with Eritrean officials.

``The Eritrean government has taken its public relations schemes to new heights by accompanying correspondents to a battlefront, telling them that it was Geza Gersale,″ Selome told reporters.

She also said Ethiopia had used heavy artillery to knock out a radar station at Adi Quala, 10 miles inside Eritrea.

Eritrea called the claim ``pure fabrication.″ Residents in the small town 55 miles south of Asmara told reporters that a radar station there had not been damaged in shelling Monday but had been removed by Eritrean soldiers during the night.

The border dispute has been simmering since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

Radio Ethiopia reported Tuesday night that the government had given Eritrean Ambassador Girma Asmerom 24 hours to leave Addis Ababa. Girma had remained at his post since fighting broke out in May.

The U.N. Security Council demanded an immediate halt to the fighting Tuesday and expressed concern about civilians caught in the conflict.

``The members of the council are actively considering the situation and ways in which these two countries can be persuaded to cease hostilities,″ the council said in a statement.

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