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Eritrean gunmen kidnap dozens of Ethiopian gold miners

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

February 20, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – A group of Eritrean armed men allegedly carried out mass kidnappings from a region in North Ethiopia bordering the tiny Red Sea nation.

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Eritrea, which borders Sudan and Ethiopia, has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa (HRW)

Multiple sources told Sudan Tribune Saturday that a group of armed men allegedly dressed in Eritrean army uniforms crossed borders to Ethiopia and forcibly kidnapped over 80 young Ethiopian miners who were mining gold in Tigray regional state

The kidnapping were carried out earlier this month at Kafta-Humera district in Tsirga Girmai locality.

The abducted were among the estimated 400 traditional gold miners who had long been engaged in traditional gold mining activities near the Ethiopia - Eritrea shared border.

When contacted by phone, Hagos Tesfamichael, a gold miner himself, told Sudan Tribune that the gunmen whose numbers were yet to be verified surrounded a group of gold mining workers and threatened to open fire against them if they attempts to escape.

Tesfamichael said he had seen the helpless miners forced to cross the Eritrean territory via Mereb River at gunpoint.

Once they reached at Mereb River in to the Eritrean side, said Tesfamichael, some of the miners considered escaping, but were immediately shot dead.

As a result one was shot dead immediately while many others were wounded, he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the first since 2012, when Eritrean soldiers similarly crossed borders to Ethiopia and kidnapped over 100 miners in the region.

The armed men are said to have been speaking Eritrean Tigrigna and are believed to be members of the Eritrean Army or a group allied with the regime in Asmara.

Ethiopia has routinely accused Eritrea of orchestrating a number of cross-border attacks and mass kidnapping using Ethiopian rebels it harbors, an accusation Asmara denies.

Ethiopian officials’ weren’t immediately available for comments over the alleged attacks carried out on its soil.

The Horn of Africa’s nation has previously carried out attacks on targets inside Eritrea to what Addis Ababa says is a proportional measures to Eritrea’s continued aggression including to cross-border kidnappings targeting foreign tourists.

In 1998, the two neighbors fought a two-year long war over their disputed border which has claimed the lives of at least 70,000. The row over their border remains unresolved and forces of both sides regularly engage in lower-scale skirmishes.

(ST)