(Jan. 20, 2012 – A Week in the Horn of Africa)
Last Monday night an armed group of between thirty and forty men attacked a group of tourists who were camped on the slopes of the Erta Ale volcano in the Afar Regional State. The attack took place some 30 kms from the Eritrean border and the attackers, who came from Eritrea, retreated back across the border after their attack. Following the incident, the Government issued a press statement.
“On Monday, January 16th, a group of 27 tourists travelling in the Afar Regional State were attacked by gunmen. It was an act of open terrorism resulting in the death of five people with others injured and kidnapped. Those killed were two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian. The injured included people from Italy, Belgium and the UK. Two Germans and two Ethiopians were kidnapped.
“The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia would like to express its deep condolences to the families of those killed in this cruel attack. It will do everything possible to try and get those taken prisoner released as soon as possible. It is already clear that the attack was carried out with the direct involvement of the Eritrean Government. There is concern that the people who have been kidnapped might be taken across the border into Eritrea. On previous occasions when tourists have been kidnapped, the Eritrean government had tried to use the prisoners as a bargaining chip in its diplomatic activities.
“Monday’s incident is yet another indication of how determined the regime in Asmara is to continue its destabilizing activities in the region. Indeed, it is an indication of the failure of the international community to rein in the regime. The Government of Ethiopia believes that this terrorist act is intended to coincide with the upcoming African Union Summit being held in Addis Ababa at the end of the month. It might be recalled that it was almost exactly a year ago that a major bombing plot was foiled in Addis Ababa, intended to disrupt the African Union Summit last January.
“It is an open secret that the regime in Asmara focuses its ‘diplomatic’ efforts on trying to intimidate and terrorize the international community rather than operate through normal diplomatic norms. It is also becoming obvious that the international community’s failure to take serious action against the regime is effectively reinforcing Eritrea’s recalcitrant behavior.
“The Government of Ethiopia is of the view the time is overdue for the international community to become serious about the destabilizing role of the Eritrean regime in the region. This latest cowardly attack against innocent tourists clearly shows Asmara’s contempt for the notions of law and customs.
“The Ethiopian Government’s tolerance towards a regime that openly supports terrorist activity is inevitably wearing thinner by the day. The Government cannot and should not sit idly by while the regime in Asmara continues to sponsor acts of terror within Ethiopia’s territory with impunity. It will be obliged to take whatever action is necessary to stop the activities of the Eritrean regime once and for all unless the international community assumes its responsibilities and takes the necessary steps to bring this abominable behavior to an end. The Ethiopian Government believes that it is still not too late for international action. At the same time, the Government would like to reiterate that the international community has never been the last line of defense against Eritrea’s destabilizing activities. It should be made clear that Ethiopia has the right to defend itself and it will do so if necessary.”