Ethiopia, Eritrea War Erupts on New Front

February 15, 1999
ASMARA Fresh fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea erupted with heavy shelling on Sunday on a new front southwest of the strategic Red Sea port of Assab. Eritrea said it shot down an Ethiopian MI-24 helicopter gunship at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT), killing the crew. Car horns blared in the Eritrean capital when a report of the shelling was announced on state radio, witnesses said.

Both sides blamed the other for starting Sunday's fighting, which broadens one of the few African conflicts in which two nations are contesting a frontline using conventional armies. This morning the Eritreans started shelling our positions and we responded, Ethiopian Government Spokeswoman Selome Taddesse told Reuters in Addis Ababa. An Eritrean government spokesman said the attack started with a massive Ethiopian bombardment by artillery and an Antonov aircraft.

Fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea restarted on February 6 on the Badme and Zalambessa fronts but eased on Wednesday. Assab, at the southern end of the Red Sea, is just 70 km (43 miles) northeast of the border and is Eritrea's second port. The town was a vital conduit for landlocked Ethiopia until the conflict began last May when the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi diverted trade mainly to Djibouti. (Reuter)