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Ethiopia denies role in deadly Sudan border attack

The disputed al-Fashaqa border region risks becoming a regional flashpoint as Ethiopia descends into civil war.
A soldier walks past girls looking on in the village of Dukouli within the Quraysha locality, located in the Fashaqa al-Sughra agricultural region of Sudan's eastern Gedaref state on March 16, 2021.

Ethiopia’s government denied involvement a deadly attack on Sudanese soldiers in the disputed al-Fashaqa border region over the weekend.

Speaking on state-run television on Sunday, Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu blamed the attack on rebels aligned with the Tigray Peoplel’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is fighting a brutal and escalating civil war against Ethiopia’s government.

Yesterday Reuters cited Sudanese military sources as saying six soldiers were killed in an attack near the disputed border with Ethiopia on Saturday. Bloomberg reported at least 20 Sudanese soldiers killed, citing a border security official.

Sudan’s army blamed “Ethiopian army forces and militias” for the attack in a statement posted to Facebook. The military also claimed Sudanese forces “valiantly repelled the attack and inflicted heavy losses in life and equipment on the attackers.”

Legresse claimed that “a large group of insurgents, bandits and terrorists” had crossed into Ethiopia from the Sudanese side of the border and that “the Ethiopian National Defense Force and the local militia destroyed them.”

He also alleged that the TPLF has been training in Sudan with support from foreign backers.

The decades-long dispute between the two countries over the border region has worsened since Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pressed a campaign to crush the TPLF in his country’s north.

Sudan deployed forces to the al-Fashaqa triangle region, drawing charges from Addis Ababa that Khartoum is seeking to exploit the conflict.

The border issue is just one of a number of potentially explosive disputes in the Horn of Africa region. Abiy’s government remains defiant in a deadlocked contest with its northerly Nile Valley neighbors Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopia is now facing a full-blown civil war as its attempts to rout the TPLF in the country’s northern Tigray region have failed. TPLF forces have advanced rapidly over the past several weeks, leading to mass mobilization in Addis Ababa and concerns among officials in Washington that the rebels could seize the capital.

The Biden administration dispatched regional envoy Jeffrey Feltman to Addis Ababa earlier this month in an urgent bid to press for a cease-fire to de-escalate Ethiopia's conflict with the TPLF.

Ethiopian state media said last week that Abiy had arrived at the war’s front lines to personally lead troops in battle.

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