Tensions mount in Eritrea: thousands of young people detained and air travel is curtailed

(Asmara 20-10-2013) The regime in Eritrea has been conducting mass raids and arrests (giffa) detaining thousands of people of ‘military age’ (18-50) and sending them to military training centres in Sawa, Wea and Barentu.

The raids that were carried out over three days starting Friday had the biggest impact in Asmara, Mendefera, Dekehare and Segeneyti as well as Keren Massawa and Gindae. It is estimated that up to 1,500 young people  may have been detained in Asmara alone, and sent to Sawa and Wea.  The soldiers who were carrying on these raids in Asmara were predominantly from the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM), an Ethiopian opposition group based in Eritrea.

Meanwhile in Massawa, the raids were carried out by new Special Forces (division called 61) selected from the rank and file of the National Service Recruits.

Commentators estimate that there are between 9,000 to 10,000 fighters belonging to TPDM and other Ethiopian opposition groups being trained and supported by the regime in Eritrea, and this is not the first time that they have been deployed to duties inside Eritrea, in the wake of the January 2013 attempted coup, they were dispatched to the streets of the capital to quell spread of the uprising. Over the months since then all key security tasks, including presidential guards, were transferred from the Eritrean in favour of TPDM soldiers.

In a separate news, air travel in and out of Asmara is suffering severe restrictions with Nas Air’s flights having stopped some three months  back. Nas Air was privately owned by Mr Nesredin Ibrahim and used to fly to: Juba , Jeddah, Dubai and Nairobi.

This afternoon it was, also confirmed that Lufthansa seized operations and it is anticipated that the Eritrean Carrier leased from a Bulgarian company will stop operations on the 23rd of November 2013.  The troubled Eritrean Airline is infact a project blighted by incompetence and interference from the government as documented by its previous director, Mr Kiflom Dafla. Currently the operation is managed by Mr Teclemariam Tedla previously resident in the US.