Eritrea

  1. Eritrean army accused of atrocities in Tigray

    BBC World Service

    Eritrean soldiers
    Image caption: Eritrean soldiers have supported Ethiopia's federal army during the conflict (file photo)

    A senior official from Ethiopia's northern Tigray region says Eritrean forces are still committing atrocities despite the recent deal with Addis Ababa to bring an end to the two-year war.

    Tigray People's Liberation Front spokesman Getachew Reda said Eritrean forces were killing civilians and looting and destroying property.

    Several human rights organisations have accused Eritrean soldiers of committing atrocities in Ethiopia in the past, but these claims have been denied by Eritrean officials.

    Mr Getachew also said Tigrayan fighters would not lay down their arms until the federal government ensured the withdrawal of Eritrean and other forces from the region.

    An Ethiopian official said the Eritrean issue would be resolved as soon as federal troops were stationed in Tigray's border areas.

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  2. Eritrea detains Catholic bishop - sources

    Teklemariam Bekit

    BBC News Tigrinya

    Bishop Abune Fikremariam Hagos
    Image caption: Bishop Abune Fikremariam Hagos was ordained in 2012

    A Catholic bishop was arrested by Eritrean security agents on Saturday morning at Asmara international airport after arriving from Europe, sources in and outside the country have told the BBC.

    The government has not publicly commented on the reported arrest of Bishop Abune Fikremariam Hagos, who was ordained as the first bishop of Segheneity in southern Eritrea in 2012.

    The Catholic Church has asked the relevant government authorities for the bishop's whereabouts. The authorities are said to have informed the church that it was "holding" the prelate but did not disclose where or why he was detained.

    Eritrean forces had earlier arrested Abba Mihretab Stefanos, the parish priest of St Michael's church in Segheneity last Tuesday, sources said.

    Another priest, Abba Abraham from the Capuchin Society, was reportedly also detained in Teseney town.

    The reasons behind the detention of the bishop and the two priests are unknown.

    It comes amid recent intensified military mobilisation by the government, which is hunting draft dodgers to join the war in neighbouring Ethiopia. The Eritrean government has sent troops to help Ethiopia against forces from its northern Tigray region bordering Eritrea.

    Recently, there has been growing public discontent over Eritrea's involvement in the conflict.

    The Catholic bishops have repeatedly called on the Eritrean government to nurture an inclusive democracy and end authoritarian behaviour. The government has been unhappy with the Catholic Church's calls for political reform.

    In 2019, the authorities shut Catholic-run schools and hospitals, saying they were imposing regulations that stipulate that religious bodies cannot run such institutions.

    Catholics make up about 4% of Eritrea's population. The church is one of only four religious groups allowed to operate in Eritrea, along with the Eritrean Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran, and Sunni Muslim groups.

    The country, led by President Isaias Afwerki for the past 30 years, does not have any functioning constitution and has never held a national election.

  3. Rebels accuse Ethiopia and Eritrea of deadly strike

    BBC Horn of Africa service

    The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has accused Ethiopian and Eritrean forces of killing dozens of people including children during an airstrike.

    Getachew Reda of the TPLF said the victims were displaced people who had fled to Adiyabo close to the border with Eritrea. It has not been possible to independently verify the attack.

    There has been no comment from the governments in Addis Ababa and Asmara.

    A map of Ethiopia and Eritrea showing Adiyabo.

    Humanitarian workers said an airstrike in the same area of Tigray last week killed at least six people.

    The Ethiopian government has accused Tigrayans of keeping weapons in civilian areas.

    In recent weeks there has been heavy fighting involving tens of thousands of troops with reports of heavy losses on all sides.

    International efforts to push for a ceasefire are continuing.

  4. Eritrean man succumbs to cancer after viral appeal

    Tesfalem Araia

    BBC Tigrinya

    Yonas Tsegay
    Image caption: Yonas Tsegay appeared in a video with his wife and six children

    An Eritrean man who sparked a donation frenzy among Eritreans in the diaspora has succumbed to blood cancer while receiving treatment at a hospital in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Yonas Tsegay’s appeal for help in January saw fellow Eritreans raise nearly 700,000 Canadian dollars ($560,000, £410,000) within a day.

    The money was raised through a GoFundMe appeal started by Canada-based Eritrean Mebrahtu Hidray.

    Yonas died a few days ago and his funeral is expected in the coming days, sources have told BBC Tigrinya.

    He suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is described by the UK National Health Service (NHS) as an “uncommon” blood cancer that “can usually be treated successfully with chemotherapy alone, or chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy”.

    The most common symptoms include a painless swelling in a lymph node, usually in the neck, armpit or groin.

    The authorities told him to seek medical treatment abroad but his family was unable to afford this.

    With the help of Eritrea-based YouTube channel Henpas Entertainment, the family decided to seek help through GoFundMe - and Eritreans in the diaspora responded immediately.

  5. EU criticises Eritrea's reported offensive in Tigray

    A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray on February 26, 2021.
    Image caption: Thousands of people have been killed in the Tigray conflict

    The European Union says the reported movement of Eritrean troops into northern Ethiopian region of Tigray will only serve to escalate the conflict.

    “The EU urges once again all parties to forget about any military solution and join efforts for the benefit of their populations,” said Josep Borrell, EU foreign affairs and security policy chief.

    It comes amid a reported full-scale offensive by Eritrean troops along the Eritrea-Tigray border.

    The Tigrayan forces spokesman, Getachew Reda, said the Eritreans were fighting alongside Ethiopian federal forces and regional militia.

    But neither the Eritrean nor the Ethiopian governments have spoken about the reported entry of Eritrean forces.

    An American envoy on Tuesday condemned the fighting, noting that the US was aware of Eritrean troops crossing into Tigray.

    Eritrea has been allied with Ethiopian government soldiers in their almost two-year war against Tigrayan rebels.

    Thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced in the conflict.

  6. TPLF alleges Eritrea has launched offensive

    BBC World Service

    The United States says it's following Eritrean troop movements in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region after rebels there said a full scale offensive was underway.

    The US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, described the reports as extremely concerning.

    He said external forces should avoid fuelling the ongoing conflict in Tigray.

    Eritrea has been allied with Ethiopian government soldiers in their two- year long war against Tigrayan rebels.

    Mr Hammer said the presence of Eritrean troops only inflamed an already tragic situation.

    Earlier, a spokesman for the rebel TPLF Getachew Reda said there was heavy fighting in several areas along the border.

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  7. Eritrea mobilises reservists as Ethiopia fighting escalates

    BBC Tigrinya

    An abandoned army tank in Tigray
    Image caption: Eritrean forces previously fought alongside Ethiopian troops in the war in Tigray

    A military mobilisation is under way in Eritrea in which reservists up to the age of 55 have been recalled to replenish the army, reports say.

    On Thursday, many in the capital, Asmara, were given notices and taken within hours to front lines along the country's shared border with Ethiopia's Tigray region, sources told BBC Tigrinya.

    Reservists in many other parts of the country have also been told to report to their respective head offices.

    Recently, roundups have been intensified in many areas including Asmara. Security forces are stopping people to check if they are exempted from military conscription.

    Some reservists were told to bring their own supplies such as blankets and water containers, sources say.

    There were scenes of mothers, children and wives crying as they bid farewell to their sons, fathers, brothers and husbands.

    The latest mobilisation has created fears that the conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia's Tigray region might escalate further.

    Fighting between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces resumed last month after five months of a humanitarian truce.

    Tigray leaders have accused Eritrea of joining forces with Ethiopian troops in the western parts of their shared border.

    Both Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities have not responded to requests for comments - but Eritrean authorities had accused the Tigray forces of planning to attack them.

    Eritrean forces fought alongside the Ethiopian government army against Tigrayan forces in the initial phase of the war. They were accused of atrocities - which Eritrean officials denied.

    The US has put sanctions on the Eritrean Defence Forces and the ruling PFDJ organisation in response to their involvement in the Ethiopian conflict.

    A map of Ethiopia and Eritrea
  8. Eritrea seizes control of Catholic-owned college

    Teklemariam Bekit

    BBC News Tigrinya

    Catholic in Eritrea
    Image caption: Catholics are a minority in Eritrea

    The Eritrean government has seized control of a Catholic-owned technical school, sources have told the BBC.

    The Hagaz Agro-Technical School is run by the LaSalle Brothers organisation and has been providing training in farm machinery, rearing of crops and animals, as well as soil conservation for the last 23 years.

    The school is also known for producing Shalku wines, the drink grappa and jam. From its dairy cattle it produces yoghurt and cheeses.

    Another Catholic-owned training college, the Don Bosco Technical School in Dekemhare, is set to be handed over to the government in September.

    In 2019, the Eritrean government took control of secondary schools and health facilities run by religious bodies across the country.

    The government cited a regulation passed in 1995 that limited the activities of religious institutions in the Horn of Africa nation.

    Eritrean bishops objected to the regulation, arguing that the church’s social services did not act in opposition to the government.

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of Eritrea wrote to the Eritrean government, saying "the Church's life is connected with the service of the people".

    The bishops have repeatedly called on the Eritrean government to nurture an inclusive democracy and end authoritarian tactics.

    Many analysts believe the latest seizures are a retaliation for the Catholic Church's call for reforms in the one-party state.

    Roman Catholics make up about 4% of Eritrea's population.

    The church is one of only four religious groups allowed to operate in the country, along with the Eritrean Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran, and Sunni Islam groups.

    Other religious groups are viewed by the government as foreign agents.

  9. Video content

    Video caption: Murdered asylum seeker had 'found happiness' in Birmingham

    The sister of Yordanos Brhane says she learnt of her murder after reading an Instagram post.

  10. Floods bring new misery for Eritrean refugees

    Teklemariam Bekit

    BBC News Tigrinya

    Refugee camp in Ethiopia

    Eritrean refugees in the Alem-Wach refugee camp in Ethiopia's Amhara region say their situation has worsened due to the rainy season.

    They told the BBC that their camp was flooded and their shelters were under water with no dry land nearby to be found.

    "It's a safety hazard because the area is waterlogged and it's difficult to move," Ms Yodit, an Eritrean refugee at the camp, explained.

    She said the refugees there had fled camps in the northern Tigray region during the war for their safety and the "majority [of them] paid a lot of money to brokers and smugglers" to reach there.

    The refugees say no effective steps have been taken by relevant government agencies and the UN refugee agency to improve the situation in terms of supply, food, medical care and security.

    The UNHCR however says it is awaiting funding to improve food supplies and is in discussions with the Ethiopian authorities to improve health and security services at the refugee camp.

    More than 10,000 Eritrean refugees are housed at the camp in Amhara region's Dabat district.

    Habteab Eyob, who supports the refugees, said "the camp was built on unfavourable farmland, and the tents cannot withstand heavy rain and wind".

    He describes the environment as inhabitable.

    "Children in particular are suffering greatly, they are starving," he says.

    "We left our homeland to give our children a better future," Ms Yodit said, adding that refugees faced war in Tigray and worse living conditions in the Alem-Wach camp.