MAKELLE, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Two Eritrean rebel groups said they killed 11 government soldiers and wounded some 20 others in a coordinated attack on military camps in southern Eritrea.
The groups — the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) and the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) — said in a joint statement that they had briefly taken control of the camps Thursday and seized weapons and military intelligence.
“The attacks were carried out at 3 o’clock Thursday morning. We took control of the camps until 6 o’clock ... At least 11 Eritrean military intelligence officers were killed and at least 20 others wounded,” they said in the statement issued late Thursday and obtained by Reuters.
“The camps have been completely destroyed and the Eritrean soldiers based at these camps are in disarray.”
Officials from the Eritrean Ministry of Information could not be immediately reached for comment.
Rebels regularly claim they have carried out attacks on soldiers inside Eritrea but those claims are impossible to independently verify amid severe travel restrictions.
Much of the country is off limits to foreign nationals and organizations based in the capital Asmara.
Eritrea is on the cusp of a gold mining boom with some 14 foreign companies operating in the African country. The industry could motor the economy in coming years but companies are concerned about reports of a return to violence.
Rebels accuse President Isaias Afwerki of refusing to share power. The former guerrilla leader and war hero has balked at the idea of adopting a constitution or allowing multi-party elections, and says he has no immediate plans to give up power.
The government says rebel groups are traitors who have betrayed “the struggle”; a 30-year war for independence fought and won against a much larger Ethiopian force bankrolled first by the United States and then by the Soviet Union.
The rebels said Thursday’s attacks took place at Adi Mesgena, Hadush Adi and Tselim Kalay. Both of the rebel groups are members of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), a coalition of 11 Eritrean political organizations, who say they are increasingly working together and coordinating their attacks.
“Most of the 11 member groups have agreed to jointly carry out attacks,” the joint statement said. “We believe an agreement to form a joint military front will be signed soon. We also call on others to join the front.”
Eritrea is Africa’s youngest country, gaining formal independence in 1993.
Writing by Jeremy Clarke; Editing by Lin Noueihed