Eritrea + 1 more

Eritrea-Ethiopia: UN says groups may be trying to ''destabilise'' Eritrea

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ADDIS ABABA, 21 February (IRIN) - Dissident groups may be trying to "destabilise" the Eritrean authorities, the UN's peacekeeping force said on Friday.
The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said it believed rebel groups were laying new mines in the buffer zone that separates both countries. There have been six blasts over the last two weeks.

"All six incidents during the past two weeks are either suspected or confirmed as being from newly-laid mines by persons unknown," UNMEE spokeswoman Gail Bindley Taylor Sainte said. "However the assumption is that dissident groups seeking to destabilise the Eritrean authorities are responsible for these incidents."

The comments come as it was revealed that one of the latest causalities in a mine blast in the 25 km wide buffer zone was an Eritrean colonel.

According to UNMEE, the colonel was killed on 13 February along with four other Eritrean militia force members, after their jeep hit a mine on the main road between Om Hajer and Antore.

The UN's Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC) said that the road had been cleared twice in the last few months, so that "most likely" the mine was newly-laid.

It added that these were "random" strikes which could cause problems from local to government level, as people became more concerned. The mine blasts have been occurring in the controversial western sector of the 1,000 km-long border.

Sainte added at a weekly video-linked press briefing between Asmara and Addis Ababa that UNMEE classified the threat in the area as high.

She also dismissed reports that demarcation of the border had been postponed until October, adding it was "tentatively" scheduled for May.

[ENDS]

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