Sudan Says Ethiopian Plane Breached Border

(Bloomberg) -- Sudan claimed an Ethiopian military plane breached its border, raising tensions between the two African neighbors that are embroiled in a territorial dispute.

The move is a “dangerous and unjustified” escalation, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a statement on Twitter. Ethiopia’s army spokesman and the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Sudan’s accusation is the latest in a series it’s traded with Ethiopia as sporadic deadly clashes occur around al-Fashqa, an area of fertile farming land that straddles their mutual border. Tensions in the area have escalated since a conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in early November and as Abiy’s government tries to contain unrest elsewhere in the country.

Sudan on Tuesday accused Ethiopian militias of killing six people in an attack on its territory a day earlier. Ethiopia last week said Sudanese forces killed “many civilians” during incursions in the same disputed area.

The head of Sudan’s sovereign council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, visited the border area on Wednesday, the army said on its Facebook page. The nation’s Foreign Ministry warned that any further violation of its airspace could have “dangerous repercussions,” including on “security and stability in the Horn of Africa.”

Nile Dispute

Sudan and Ethiopia are also currently trying to resolve a dispute over the pace at which Ethiopia fills a giant hydropower dam on a Nile River tributary.

Ethiopia has been rocked by instability since Abiy began opening up the country’s once tightly regulated political space after coming to power in April 2018. His unbanning of opposition and rebel groups has stoked political fragmentation and long-suppressed rivalries among ethnic communities.

In addition to the conflict in Tigray, Abiy’s government is grappling with unrest in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, where dozens of people have died in recent weeks.

In the latest attack, more than 80 civilians were killed near Dibate Jan. 12 by unidentified assailants, said Aaron Maasho, spokesman for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Similar attacks in December left more than 100 people dead.

“These types of incidents have taken place unabated for too long,” Aaron said. “We once again urge authorities at the federal and regional level to enhance coordination between themselves and strengthen the presence of security in the area.”

Fighting in Tigray is also continuing, almost two months after Abiy declared an end to hostilities. Ethiopia’s army announced Wednesday that it had killed high-ranking officials of the region’s former-ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front, including Seyoum Mesfin, a former foreign minister.

(Updates with new clashes in western Ethiopia from second paragraph after Nile Dispute sub-headline)