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Ethiopian Army attacks Eritrean military post in retaliation for rebel violence

Ethiopia's attack on an Eritrean-based rebel camp is the latest sign of deteriorating relations with Eritrea. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year war in 1998 that killed some 70,000 people.

By William DavisonCorrespondent / March 15, 2012

Ethiopian soldiers patrol in the town of Baidoa in Somalia, last month. Ethiopia's government spokesman said Thursday that Ethiopia launched a military attack inside its archrival Eritrea on Thursday, claiming that Ethiopia launched the attack because Eritrea was training 'subversive groups' that carried out attacks inside Ethiopia.

AP/File

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ethiopia's military launched an attack against "terrorist camps" inside Eritrea today in one of the most serious incidents since conflict between the two neighbors ended 12 years ago.

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The morning raid was in areas where the "Eritrean government trained, armed, and deployed hit-and-run terrorist and subversive groups," said government spokesman Shimeles Kemal.

He said the attack, which he described as a "proportional military measure" some 11 miles across Ethiopia's northeastern border, was in retaliation for Eritrea's backing of groups that have conducted atrocities inside Ethiopia, including a January attack in the Afar region that killed five Europeans tourists.

No details about the outcome of the strike, or the Eritrean response from its government in Asmara, are available yet.

Mr. Shimeles said that Eritrea's army is too weak to launch a counter-attack and that Ethiopia would take similar action if it continued to back subversive groups. Despite today's bellicose move, said Shimeles, talking is the way forward.

"While Ethiopia reserves its right to take retaliatory measures against Eritrea’s violent attacks, the government still upholds that the conflict between the two countries can only be resolved through negotiations and dialogue," he said.

It’s “not in Ethiopia’s interests” to return to hostilities, Ethiopia's State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Kristos said last month. 

Increasingly aggressive Ethiopia

The attack sends a different message and is the culmination of an increasingly aggressive stance from Ethiopia toward its neighbor. Last year Ethiopia said it would back rebels seeking to overthrow the government in Asmara. Recently it has also been applying diplomatic pressure on Eritrea, with which Ethiopia fought a two-year war from 1998-2000 that killed some 70,000 people.

Eritrea, which has been led by President Isayas Afewerki following independence from Ethiopia in 1993, has been under United Nations sanctions since 2009, primarily for supporting Somali militants, including the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab. Ethiopia also accuses Eritrea of backing groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which is fighting for autonomy for the largest and most-populous region of Ethiopia.

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