Ethiopia says Eritrean troops beat hostages
27 Apr 2007 14:11:05 GMT
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia April 27 (Reuters) - Eight Ethiopians were beaten by Eritrean troops during a two-month ordeal after being kidnapped with five Europeans, according to comments published on Friday by Ethiopian state-run media.
Photo: Released hostages arrive in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. (ENA)
The group was abducted on March 1 near the Eritrean border by gunmen who later said they were separatist rebels. Addis Ababa says Asmara masterminded the operation. Eritrea denies it.
"The hostages were beaten by gunmen, who wore Eritrean military uniform, while they were kidnapped," the official Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said in a report.
One of the hostages told the agency they were subjected to continuous interrogation by Eritrean soldiers and at times threatened with death.
"We were forced to march barefoot for five days and nights after we were kidnapped from the Ethiopian territory of Afar and taken into Eritrea," another hostage, Yonas Mesfin, was quoted as telling ENA.
The eight men were freed on Sunday before being reunited with family and friends in the capital late on Thursday.
The five Europeans -- three British men, an Italian-British woman and a French woman -- were released on March 13.
The expatriates were all linked to the British diplomatic community in Addis Ababa and have declined to discuss their time in captivity on the advice of Britain's Foreign Office.
Tensions are rising between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which fought a 1998-2000 border war in which some 70,000 people were killed.
Experts say the worst fighting for 16 years in Somalia, where Eritrea is accused of arming Islamist rebels against the Ethiopian-backed government, has stoked tempers further.
And Addis Ababa said Asmara was behind guerrillas who raided a Chinese-run Ethiopian oilfield on Tuesday, killing 74 people.
Eritrea denied the accusation and said Ethiopia was seeking to build a case for "a pretext for belligerent action against Eritrea".
Released Ethiopian hostages arrive in Addis
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 26, 2007 (ENA) - Eight Ethiopians, who have been released recently from Eritrea where they were held for 52 days after being kidnapped by gunmen in an Eritrean government-sponsored act of terrorism arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday.
Upon arrival at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, the released hostages received warm welcome from families and pertinent bodies.
One of the released hostages, Yonas Mesfin said the hostages suffered from several cruel actions by the kidnappers.
The hostages were forced to travel for five days and nights without shoe to Eritrea after they had been kidnapped in Hamed Illa area, a place in the Afar Regional State very near the Eritrean border.
The prison they were made to stayed in is very hot and uncomfortable, Yonas said.
The Ethiopian hostages were afraid that they might be killed after the release of the European abductees. However, Yonas said, they could be released after 52 days thanks to pressures on the Eritrean government by the government and peoples of Ethiopia.
Hussein Mohammed, another hostage, said his livelihood is based on renting guest house to tourists in Afar State. Some of the European hostages including himself were kidnapped from the house.
The hostages were beaten by gunmen, who wore Eritrean military uniform, while they were kidnapped. The kidnappers were speaking "Tigrigna", he added.
During their stay in prison the officials and soldiers of the Eritrean government had been interrogating each hostage.
Furthermore, the hostages had been threatened by the kidnappers now and then.
Mohamed Ibrahim, another victim, said the mercenaries of Eritrean government kidnapped him while he was sleeping at 3:00 AM.
The hostages stayed in unknown camp and prison, he said, and added that they were treated very badly.
Hadji Ali Nure, 60, one of the elders, who contributed a lot for the release of the hostages, said the kidnapers also detained him while he was negotiating.
All the abductees said they had been treated very badly at the hands of men wearing Eritrean military uniforms.
Meles, Chinese delegation hold talks
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 26, 2007 (ENA) - Prime Minister Meles Zenawi held talks here on Thursday with a senior delegation of the Chinese government led by Wang Shengwen.
The aim of the visit of the Chinese delegation was to share the empathy of the people and government of China with Ethiopian counterparts over the indiscriminate massacre of innocent civilians of the two countries by anti-peace forces at Abule area in Degehabur zone. In an ambush at the dawn of April 23, terrorists massacred 65 Ethiopians and 9 Chinese citizens - all civilian workers at an oil exploration project run by a Chinese Company.
74 dead in attack on Chinese oil field in Ethiopia, official says
Terrorist Group ONLF massacred 74 in Ogaden, Ethiopia
74 Killed in a terrorist attack by ONLF on Chinese oil venture in Ethiopia
According to a government official who attended the discussion, the delegation said the inhuman massacre committed by the terrorist group would not reduce the age long friendship and economic ties between Ethiopia and China. Ethiopia holds the self-styled Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) for the massacre under orders from the regime in Eritrea. The terrorists also kidnapped seven Chinese and Ethiopian workers of the project.
Prime Minister Meles expressed to the Chinese delegation his government's distress over the appaling act of terror that victimized innocent civilians of the two countries.
Having expressed condolences, Meles assured the delegation of his government's readiness to provide the necessary protection to Chinese citizens assisting in development activities in Ethiopia. Earlier in a relevant press conference, Meles said his government will see to it that the perpetrators would not go unpunished to ensure that such a heinous crime would not happen again.
The perpetrator of the terrorist attack on the Chinese and Ethiopian workers at the petroleum exploration and development project site is the self-styled Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a terrorist wing which is part of the front of destruction led by the Eritrean Government, the Ministry of Information said said in an earlier statement.
Ethiopia: Ogaden rebels to free Chinese workers soon
A spokesperson for the Ethiopian rebels holding seven Chinese oil workers captured during an attack on a Chinese oil venture in Ethiopia said on Thursday they would release them "as soon as possible"
"They are very well. We are planning to release them to the ICRC (International Committee for the Red Cross), we'll do that as soon possible when the proper arrangements are done," said Abderahmane Mahdi, said.
The situation is very complex because Ethiopia will take any advantage to kill them and to blame us," he told AFP by telephone from London.
It is "a very delicate operation, because Ogaden is a battle zone," he added.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front separatist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's dawn attack on a Chinese oil venture in Ogaden, where the ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis.
The Chinese embassy in Ethiopia expressed hope on Thursday for the release of the seven Chinese seized in the attack in which 77 people died, including nine Chinese.
Meanwhile Ethiopia has sent an investigation team to the oil site in its remote eastern region.Authorities in Somali region, which includes Ogaden, decreed two days of mourning starting on Thursday in memory of victims of the attack. (AFP)
- 65 Ethiopian workers were killed
- 9 Chinese were killed
- 7 Chinese workers were kidnapped
- ONLF claimed responsibility
Ethiopia ensnared in Somalia
Some observers see similarities to U.S. in Iraq
By Stephanie McCrummen
The Washington Post
Updated: 2:09 a.m. ET April 27, 2007
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Four months after Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declared his own "war on terror" against an Islamic movement in Somalia, Ethiopia remains entangled in a situation that analysts and critics are comparing to the U.S. experience in Iraq.
Though Meles proclaimed his military mission accomplished in January, thousands of Ethiopian troops remain in the Somali capital, where they have used attack helicopters, tanks and other heavy weapons in a bloody campaign against insurgents that in recent weeks has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, and forced half of the city's population to flee.
On Thursday, the Ethiopian-backed Somali prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, declared that three weeks of heavy fighting was over, a statement tempered by the mortar blasts that continued to boom in the distance, witnesses said.
Somali insurgency seen 'broken' [Washington Times]
Allied Ethiopian and Somali government forces have "broken the backbone" of an Islamist insurgency in Somalia and are now engaged in a "mop-up operation,"
War in the Horn [The Economist]
Somalia's government says it has crushed Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu, the capital. The reality looks different
Meanwhile, a political crisis seems to be worsening, as the Somali transitional government, steadfastly supported by the United States, faces a swell of criticism for ignoring concerns of the city's dominant Hawiye clan, whose militias form the core of the insurgency and who are motivated not by the ideology of jihad, but power.
An Osama boy or just an ordinary gunman? [AP]
"It's just exactly like the Americans in Iraq,"
"I don't see how this was a victory. It really was a futile exercise."
"It's just exactly like the Americans in Iraq," said Beyene Petros, a member of the Ethiopian Parliament and an early critic of the invasion. "I don't see how this was a victory. It really was a futile exercise."
The United States, which had accused Somalia's Islamic Courts movement of being hijacked by extremist ideologues, followed Ethiopia's invasion with airstrikes aimed at three suspects in the 1998 American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, along with certain Islamic Courts leaders accused of having terrorist ties.
Four months later, however, none of those targets has been killed or captured, and the U.S. airstrikes are confirmed to have killed only civilians, livestock and a smattering of Islamic fighters on the run who were never accused of any crime.
More than 200 FBI and CIA agents have set up camp in the Sheraton Hotel here in Ethiopia's capital and have been interrogating dozens of detainees -- including a U.S. citizen -- picked up in Somalia and held without charge and without attorneys in a secret prison somewhere in this city, according to Ethiopian and U.S. officials who say the interrogations are lawful.
U.S. and Ethiopian officials say they have netted valuable information from some of the 41 detainees, who are being brought before a court whose proceedings are closed to the public.
Others have been quietly released, however, and human rights groups are criticizing the joint operation as a kind of "decentralized Guantanamo" in the Horn of Africa .
Ethiopian officials declined to be interviewed on the subject of Somalia, and a general blackout of information about the war prevails in the capital. Opposition members of Parliament complain that they have not been informed how many Ethiopian soldiers have been killed, how much the war is costing per day or how the government is paying for it.
There is also a sense here that while the invasion served Meles's own domestic interests, Ethiopia was also doing a job on behalf of the United States and is being left with a financial and military mess.
Supporters of Meles are mostly playing down the trouble, even as they are scrambling behind the scenes to find a solution. Knife Abraham, a close adviser to the prime minister, described the situation in Mogadishu -- where the bodies of Ethiopian soldiers have been dragged through the streets -- as "a hiccup."
"The victory was swift and decisive," Abraham said. "Now Ethiopia wants to stabilize the situation and get out."
But it remains unclear how Ethiopia will manage to do that while preserving Somalia's fragile transitional government and preventing more violence.
"The military victory was not complemented by a political victory," said Medhane Tadesse, an occasional adviser to the Ethiopian government who initially supported the invasion. "Long-term stability in Somalia requires a long-term social strategy, but Ethiopia and the U.S. only had a military strategy."
Ideological or monetary motivation?
Privately, diplomats in the region say the main problem for Meles comes down to one man: the president of the Somali transitional government, Abdullahi Yusuf, who has always had close ties to Ethiopia. Although Yusuf promised an inclusive government, he has failed to satisfy key leaders of the Hawiye clan, the historic rivals of Yusuf's Darod clan and the main base of support for the ousted Islamic Courts movement.
While Yusuf and Meles have continued to wage what they call a war against "terrorists," experts and even officials close to Yusuf say the insurgency has been heavily motivated by Hawiye clan business interests rather than ideology.
Yusuf's chief of staff, Adam Hassan, accused Hawiye leaders of trying to "hoodwink" Somalis and foreign diplomats into believing that the Hawiye have been treated unfairly, so they can retain property and land they took over after the 1991 fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, who was from Yusuf's Darod clan.
Hawiye leaders said Yusuf wants to assume control of a city they have in many ways administered, and profited from, for years. They said their skepticism of the government has been strengthened by the president, "who labels as 'terrorist' every person or clan who criticizes his policy and clan-style leadership," according to a document outlining their concerns to Ethiopian officials.
One diplomat closely involved in the reconciliation process said Yusuf has refused to meet with Hawiye elders.
In an attempt to breach that gap, Ethiopia has lately been negotiating directly with Hawiye leaders, while the Hawiye seem to be trying to untangle themselves from certain Islamic Courts figures in an attempt to polish their image. This month, the clan asked two of the more extreme Islamic leaders to leave Mogadishu, saying they were a liability.
While the extremist element was always a factor in the Islamic movement, the notion of waging a "war on terror" in Somalia was always an oversimplification of a more complex situation, said Tadesse, the adviser to the Ethiopian government .
The Islamic movement was diverse, made up of extremist military commanders vowing holy war against Ethiopia and moderate leaders, including one, Ibrahim Addow, who taught at American University and holds a U.S. passport.
It was also always fundamentally a Hawiye movement, and Somalis tend to be loyal to clan above all.
Ethiopia, U.S. made a mistake?
Ethiopia and the United States made a mistake, Tadesse and other critics say, by throwing their support entirely behind the transitional government in the name of fighting a terrorist threat that involved just a few individuals, and at the expense of alienating the Hawiye.
This month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer flew to Somalia in a show of U.S. support for Yusuf's government, a move that further infuriated Hawiye leaders.
Frazer has expressed "concern" for civilians but has offered no public criticism of the transitional government or of Ethiopia for using attack helicopters and other heavy weapons against civilian neighborhoods that have been reduced to ruins.
In his news conference Thursday, the Somali prime minister, Gedi, invited more than 300,000 residents who have fled the city in recent weeks to return to the broken seaside capital, where certain neighborhoods have lately acquired new nicknames.
In an allusion to sectarian violence engulfing Baghdad, residents now call the north part of the city Shiite and the south Sunni.
Gedi said that most of the fighting had ended and that Ethiopian and Somali government troops were merely clearing out the remaining "pockets" of resistance.
But Mohamud Uluso, a prominent leader of a Hawiye sub-clan called the Ayr, said that despite Gedi's declaration, fighting will most likely continue.
"What is worrying for Somalis and the international community now is the possibility of what happened in Iraq," he said. "The fighting was under the control of the Hawiye leadership committee, but once that control disintegrates, then there will be underground leadership. You don't know who or where they are."
Special correspondent Mohamed Ibrahim in Mogadishu contributed to this report.
Timeline: Ethiopia and Somalia
- 1991 Somalia descends into civil war between rival clan warlords
- July 21 2006 The Islamic court leadership orders a "holy war" against Ethiopians in Somalia.
- October 25 2006 Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi says Ethiopia is "technically at war" with the UIC.
- December 19 2006 Deadline for Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia or face a "major attack" expires.
- December 25 2006 Ethiopian aircraft bomb Mogadishu airport.
- December 28 2006 Mogadishu Captured
- April 26 2007 Ethiopian forces seize insurgent strongholds in Mogadishu
Source: BBC News and Wire Reports
For more on Somalia Ethiopia conflict check nazret.com Special Section on Somalia
«"ethiopian airlines"» adoption agriculture airline airlines athletics aviation business caf china «commodity exchange» crime diaspora drought dv economy ecx energy eritrea «ethiopian airlines» famine fashion football health hydroelectric ict immigration investment islam manufacturing media «meles zenawi» migration mobile muslim nile olympic olympics phone politics power press rail railway religion soccer sport style telecom wikileaks