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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, released the following statement Friday after Dr. Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo People’s Congress and one of Ethiopia’s opposition leaders, was arrested earlier this week after returning home following his testimony to the European Union parliament on the current political crisis in the country:
“Dr. Gudina’s arrest appears to be based solely based on the fact that he is a member of the opposition who has spoken out publicly against the regime, and as such he should be immediately released. He is not the only member of the opposition to be arrested for speaking out, and his detention signals a disturbing lack of commitment to the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution.
“The government’s crackdown on Oromo protesters over the past year have resulted in very troubling allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings by security forces with little in the way of meaningful accountability.
“The Ethiopian government should release all journalists, members of the opposition and civil society activists who have been detained, and take meaningful actions to open political space, starting with lifting current restrictions on social media.
“Ethiopia and the United states are close partners. As such, I call upon the government to take actions which demonstrate that it is sincere about making political reforms toward an inclusive, truly representative government.”
Senator Cardin introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution in April that condemns government crackdowns on and violence against civil society, opposition leaders and the media, as well as asks the Secretary of State to conduct a review of U.S. security assistance to Ethiopia.
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Ethiopia authorities said they foiled an Eritrean-backed terrorist attack, killed as well as detained dozens of Eritrean mercenaries.
Ethiopian Ministry of Defense said the terrorist attack was thwarted after Ginbot 7, an opposition movement branded by Addis Ababa as terrorist entity attempted to deploy dozens of its armed fighters into Ethiopia.
The Ginbot 7 forces were arrested trying to infiltrate into Ethiopia from Eritrea via the northern Tigray region bordering Eritrea.
Military officials on Tuesday told Sudan Tribune that a total of 113 armed members of the banned group have crossed borders into Western Tigray region.
But most of them were killed or captured by the joint efforts of the residents and regional security forces.
Out of the total 113 members of the infiltrating forces, 15 were shot dead in fire exchange while 73 were captured; officials said adding security forces are hunting to detain the remaining who went to disarray.
According to the ministry, several weapons and military equipment were also captured.
The opposition forces crossed into Ethiopia into two rounds led by Major Mesfin Tigabu and by Destaw Tegegn respectively. Huge number of military weapons, money and other military materials were also captured from the armed men, the Ministry added
Among others 73 rifles, 62 Hand grenades, other RPG weapons and Satellite communication devices were captured.
In addition to the weapons and the military equipment, several Ethiopian birr bills and US dollars were seized, the statement indicated.
The ministry of defense said added that the attempted terrorist plot by Eritrea and the other destructive forces is intended to destabilize and hider development endeavors in the country.
The captured militants were allegedly trained and armed by the regime in Asmara.
Ethiopia repeatedly accuses the Red Sea nation of deploying terrorists to destabilize nation, an allegation Eritrea denies.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war however the two neighbors fought a war during 1998-2000 over territorial disputes which killed over 70,000 people.
As their border dispute never settled the two countries remain at No war – No peace situation. Both countries routinely trade accusations of arming and supporting each others’ rebel groups.
Ethiopia has often foiled Eritrea-backed attacks and have captured a number of terrorist groups while trying to sneak into the country.
Previously, Ethiopian forces have penetrated deep into Eritrean territories and attacked several military bases, including those bases used by militants who are given sanctuary by Eritrea to carry out attacks against Ethiopia.
Source: Sudan Tribune
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