/ 16 October 2007

Eritrea security chief survives assassination bid

Eritrea’s powerful head of internal security, Colonel Simon Ghebredengel, survived an assassination attempt last week in Asmara, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

”There was a failed assassination attempt on Saturday October 13 on the colonel,” Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu said. ”He is in a very stable condition.”

Ali refused to comment on reports by opposition websites that the colonel had been shot four times, nor on the number or identity of the attackers.

”It is under investigation, and details will come in the following report,” Ali added.

Security has been extremely tight since the incident, with extra military police drafted in to patrol the capital and boost roadblocks outside the city.

In the centre of Asmara, gangs of armed soldiers have been standing on many street corners, demanding to see identification cards and movement papers — documents needed to travel to certain areas.

Opposition websites have speculated the assassination attempt was a ”revenge” attack by family members of people who had been arrested and detained by security forces.

Eritrea’s secretive national security agency keeps a tight control over the country, with activities that are believed to include the tapping of telephone conversations as well as managing a wide network of informers.

The attack comes against a background of growing tensions with arch-foe Ethiopia over an unresolved border dispute that already erupted in a bloody conflict between 1998 and 2000. — Sapa-AFP