Eriteria Calm After Siege Ends

Published by IGIHE
On 23 January 2013 saa 06:42
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Eritrea’s government has said the capital Asmara is "calm" a day after armed mutineers seized the information ministry, with opposition sites saying the stand-off was settled.

"All is calm today, as it was indeed yesterday," Yemane Gebremeskel, the director of Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki’s office, said on Tuesday.

A group of dissident Eritrean soldiers laid siege to the information ministry on Monday, forcing state media to announce a call for the release of political prisoners.

The renegade soldiers forced the director of state television to make an announcement, a senior Eritrean intelligence official said.

"The soldiers have forced him to speak on state TV, to say the Eritrean government should release all political prisoners," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Reports from Eritrea are difficult to independently verify, as the country restricts access to foreign media.

Selam Kidane, an Eritrean human rights activist and director of human rights organisation, Release Eritrea, told Al Jazeera that details of what had happened were still unclear.

"After those announcements were made, the state TV and radio were taken off air for about four hours," Kidane said.

"Early in the day, not many people had a clue as to what was going on - but electrical outages happen, so people were not surprised."

’Mutineers surrendered’

Opposition website, based in the United States but with close connections inside Eritrea, said that the commander of around 100 rebel soldiers had agreed to surrender.

"The face-off was ’solved’ when the government ’accepted his terms’" Awate said, although there were no further details as to what will happen next.

The reports were impossible to confirm, and it was not clear if the mutineers had formally surrendered.

The state-run Eri-TV television and radio broadcasts were taken off air on Monday, but resumed broadcasting on Tuesday, several sources said.

"Eri-TV, under regime loyalists, has resumed broadcasting live," Awate added.

"All Ministry of Information employees have been released."

Multiple sources reported that one of those held inside the information ministry was the daughter of Issaias, who has ruled the Horn of Africa nation with an iron grip from independence in 1993, following an epic 30-year liberation war from neighbouring Ethiopia.

Kidane said that those that took part in this operation were not senior personnel, but young people fed up with the situation in the country.

"These were not army officers, these were young soldiers - new recruits and those who were forced into the army," she said.

"Instead of young people fleeing the country and is in the past, they are now standing up and acting."

Awate claimed the mutineers were led by an army commander called Saleh Osman, a hero of the bloody 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, when he refused orders to abandon the key southern port of Assab, defending it and beating back invading Ethiopians.