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UN Investigates Shootings on Eritrean-Ethiopian Border


A family walks through the dry land towards Adikeshi camp, Eritrea
The United Nations is investigating two recent shooting incidents along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border, an area wrought with tension arising from the two countries' disagreement on the exact location of the boundary.

The spokesperson for the U.N. mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Gail Bindley Taylor Sainte, told VOA Friday, preliminary investigations show the shooting incidents apparently were related to cattle rustling rather than military activity.

Four people were killed, and several escaped during the incidents, which occurred April 9 and 11, close to the U.N.-monitored Temporary Security Zone.

The zone is a 25-kilometer-wide area, patrolled by the U.N. mission.

Following the shootings, Eritrea accused Ethiopia of illegally sending soldiers across the contested border. Ethiopia denied the charges.

Ms. Bindley Taylor Sainte says a man captured during the first incident told U.N. investigators that he and his colleagues were involved in cattle rustling.

She says cattle rustling activities have taken place in the same area before, so it appeared that the same could happen again. But, she says, the United Nations is continuing its investigations to make sure that it was just cattle rustling.

"The situation on the border is tense," said Gail Bindley Taylor Sainte. "We are concerned about any incident that could worsen the situation in any way. We are concerned about any incident and worse, that this has happened within the Temporary Security Zone. Anything that threatens the stability and integrity of the Temporary Security Zone concerns us."

Ethiopia and Eritrea waged a bitter conflict over their border from 1998 to 2000, during which some 70,000 people were killed.

Under a peace agreement signed in 2000, the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission was created to mark the 1,000-kilometer border. About 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers were dispatched to ensure the stability of the border.

Ethiopia subsequently rejected the boundary commission's ruling that an area called Badme belongs to Eritrea, effectively stopping a demarcation exercise, and keeping the exact location of the border in limbo.

Ethiopia recently said it would accept the ruling, if certain conditions were met, an offer Eritrea rejected.

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