Sudan’s Gen Burhan rallies troops as Ethiopia denies deadly border raid

Army chief travelled to Al Fashaqa after accusations that deadly weekend raid was carried out by Ethiopia

Sudan's top military official, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, speaking after the signing of an agreement with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Khartoum. Photo: Republican Media Palace via EPA
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Sudan’s military head Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan on Monday travelled to the disputed border region of Al Fashaqa to rally troops after a number of soldiers were killed last week in a raid blamed on Ethiopia.

The military said on Saturday that "several" soldiers were killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military in the fertile expanse known as Al Fashaqa.

Ethiopia on Sunday denied it staged the attack along its shared border with Sudan, blaming unrest in the disputed zone on rebels from the war-hit Tigray region.

The area has long been a source of tension between Addis Ababa and Khartoum, sparking deadly clashes over the past year.

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu dismissed told state media that accusations the military had attacked Sudan were "groundless".

Instead, he blamed the violence on the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the insurgent group locked in a gruesome war against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government forces since November 2020 and claimed the fighting was approaching the capital, Addis Ababa.

"A large group of insurgents, bandits and terrorists had entered [from Sudan]," Mr Legesse said in comments aired by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, without providing evidence.

"The Ethiopian National Defence Force and the local militia have destroyed them."

Mr Legesse said the TPLF was training in Sudan and receiving support from unspecified "foreign backers".

The land in Al Fashaqa has for years been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers, though Sudan claims it falls within its territory.

In November 2020, about the time Mr Abiy sent troops into Tigray to oust the TPLF, Khartoum stationed soldiers in Al Fashaqa, a move Addis Ababa described as an invasion.

Mr Legesse said Ethiopia was keen to resolve the matter peacefully.

"The Ethiopian National Defence Force doesn't have an agenda to open an attack on any sovereign country," he said.

"There is land that the Sudanese forces have invaded. The government is sitting down to resolve [the dispute] in a peaceful process, through dialogue and negotiation."

The war in northern Ethiopia has killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands more into famine-like conditions, the UN estimates.

Mr Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, headed to the front to lead operations against the TPLF.

On Sunday state media reported that the military and special forces from the Afar region had taken control of the town of Chifra.

The area around Chifra has been the site of fierce fighting in recent weeks, with the TPLF apparently trying to seize control of a critical motorway by which goods are brought into Addis Ababa.

A TPLF source disputed the state media report on Monday and said "active fighting is going on".

Updated: November 29, 2021, 3:02 PM