Ethiopia: Eritrea Backs Down


March 19, 2012: The Somalia Islamic terror group Al Shabaab group has called on Kenyan Muslims to revolt against their government. Al Shabaab particularly wants young Kenyan Muslims to launch attacks. In 2011 the UN reported that Al Shabaab had recruited a few hundred young Kenyans (of Somali ancestry) to support its cause.

March 17, 2012: The Kenya-Ethiopia noose around Al Shabaab’s southern Somalia stronghold continues to tighten. Two Kenyan Air Force jets bombed an Al Shabaab base camp in the town of Daytubako, north of the port of Kismayo. Al Shabaab claimed its militia took no casualties but civilians were hurt. The Somali government said the jets hit their target.

Ethiopian forces conducted a second round of attacks on rebel and terrorist camps inside Eritrea. Ethiopia indicated these raids occurred near the town of Badme. Eritrea will see this as further escalation. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea claim Badme. The direct attacks represent a major change in Ethiopian policy. The raids indicate that Ethiopia has concluded that its forces are now decidedly superior. Eritrea knows it and Ethiopia, sensing weakness, bet that Eritrea would not respond. Ethiopia has also diplomatically isolated Eritrea from the rest of East Africa. Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya are actively engaged in fighting Eritrea’s Al Shabaab proxy force in Somalia. Sudan is friendly towards Eritrea but does not want to provoke Ethiopia, especially given the troubles Sudan faces in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. An Ethiopian brigade is currently serving as a peacekeeping unit in Sudan’s disputed Abyei region. The Eritrean economy is also in shambles and faces extensive international sanctions. (Austin Bay)

March 16, 2012: Kenya announced it will contribute 4,660 troops to the African Union AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The Kenyan military said its UN mission would be peace enforcement. Kenya has never released an official figure for the number of soldiers it has deployed in Somalia. The working estimate has been around 3,000 and that Kenya would simply roll its deployed force into AMISOM. The AMISOM commitment figure suggests that the deployed force in Somalia may be closer to 4,000.

The Eritrean government said that it will not retaliate against Ethiopia for its March 15 raid on three militant base camps inside Eritrean territory. The Eritrean statement was surprisingly restrained, though it said Ethiopia's real aim involved the lingering Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute. Eritrea denied that it harbored terrorists and it accused the United States of being behind the attack.

March 15, 2012: Ethiopia attacked three militant camps located in Eritrea. The camps were located at Ramid, Gimbi, and Gelahbe. This was the first attack by Ethiopian forces into Eritrea since the Ethiopia-Eritrea War (1998-2000) ended. Some 70,000 to 80,000 people died in that conflict. The Ethiopian government characterized the militant organizations as terrorists and accused Eritrea of training subversive groups. One camp was 18 kilometers inside Eritrean territory. Ethiopia linked the groups operating from the bases to a rebel group which murdered five tourists in January 2012 in Ethiopia’s Afar region, the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF). All Ethiopian military units returned to Ethiopia after the raids.

March 14, 2012: African media reported that an Australian Special Air Services (commando) unit (perhaps SAS 4th Squadron) has personnel deployed in Kenya. This should not come as a surprise. Special operations units of several nations have deployed in and around Somalia since the early 1990s.

March 13, 2012: Some 15,000 refugees from South Sudan have entered Ethiopia within the last month. Many of the refugees are Lou Nuer tribal people who are fleeing violence in South Sudan’s Jonglei state. The Lou Nuer and the Murle tribes have been involved in several battles over cattle raiding. Many South Sudanese refugees are in camps around the city of Matar (Ethiopia-South Sudan border). Several thousand will be relocated to a camp near Fugnido.

March 12, 2012: Gunmen attacked a bus in the town of Gambella (western Ethiopia) resulting in 19 people killed and eight wounded. No rebel organization claimed responsibility for the attack.

March 10, 2012: Ethiopian and Somali Transitional National Government (TNG) troops fought with Al Shabaab militiamen near Baidoa, Somalia. One of the most significant battles occurred in the town of Yurkud, about ten kilometers from Baidoa. The TNG claimed that 130 Al Shabaab militiamen were killed there. Al Shabaab claimed that its forces killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers against the loss of five Al Shabaab fighters. Ethiopia said the Al Shabaab claims were false. All that is certain is that a major battle had occurred in Yurkud. Al Shabaab fighters attacked early in the morning but Ethiopian forces maintained control of the town.

March 6, 2012: The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) Ethiopian rebel group said that it had released two German hostages to German consular officials in Ethiopia. The hostages were seized after a firefight that occurred in Ethiopia’s Afar region on January 18. Five other tourists died in the fire fight. ARDUF at the time claimed that the tourists were killed by the fire of Ethiopian security forces assigned to protect the tourist group. Ethiopia accused the ARDUF fighters of simply attacking the tour party.


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