UNMEE reports attack by unknown men on village

The UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said on Thursday that an Eritrean village had come under attack from armed men.

Maj-Gen Rajender Singh, UNMEE commander, said the peacekeepers had found proof of the incident, first reported in December. He said the mission was continuing investigations. An earlier probe had found no evidence of the attacks.

"What we have found is that there is evidence of burning of some houses," Maj-Gen Singh told journalists via video link between Asmara and Addis Ababa, during a weekly UN press briefing. "We have also found that there is some evidence of armed personnel carrying weapons having gone there and carrying out these acts of burning," he added. "We don't know who is behind it."

Eritrea and Ethiopia have levelled accusation and counter-accusation against each other over armed incidents, but UNMEE insisted that the situation is "militarily stable".

Last week the UN said recent Ethiopian troop movements near the border were purely defensive and neither side was preparing for war.

During Thursday's briefing, the UN also said a 67-year-old Eritrean man was killed by an unexploded bomb (UXO) in the demilitarised zone. The man was killed on 10 January.

"It is extremely tragic that five years after the war ended that people are still being killed," the force commander said, adding that UNMEE was playing a key role in clearing and warning of landmines and UXO's around the border region.

According to the latest available figures from UNMEE, landmines and unexploded ordinance have killed 114 people since the ceasefire agreement, while 293 people have been injured. Some 61,000 landmines and UXOs have been destroyed.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war between May 1998 and December 2000 in which tens of thousands of people were killed. Some 4,000 UN peacekeepers patrol the 1,000 km long border and a 25-km wide temporary security zone.