UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
SOMALIA: Eritrea denies arms shipment to Merka
NAIROBI, 6 May (IRIN) - A large consignment of heavy arms and troops which arrived in the Somali port of Merka on Tuesday is reported to have originated in Eritrea, a charge strongly denied by Eritrean diplomats on Thursday.
The shipment, allegedly to Somali militia leader Hussein Aideed and the Ethiopian rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which he supports, "represents Eritrea's growing involvement with proxy Ethiopian and Somali factions for its war with Ethiopia", regional analysts told IRIN on Thursday.
However, a spokesman at the Eritrean embassy in Nairobi denied as "completely false" reports that it had any involvement with arming Somali factions or, more specifically, with the shipment to Merka this week. "Someone is making up a story", he said. "As far as Somalia is concerned, we don't discriminate at all between the groups, and we cannot be involved with factions killing their fellow Somalis."
Media reports from Somalia claimed Eritrean officals and soldiers were among a group of up to 700 that disembarked at Merka, which is controlled by Hussein Aideed. The force also allegedly comprised fighters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Somali Islamic fundamentalists. The ship also carried a heavy consignment of weapons, according to a port official, quoted by Reuters.
The Merka shipment showed how Somalia was rapidly becoming a new theatre in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict, which would compound an already difficult situation in the country, one analyst told IRIN on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a humanitarian source told IRIN on Thursday that the tension and security incidents in Merka which prompted last week's withdrawal of relief agencies from the town were quite separate from the arms and troop shipment. That temporary withdrawal was the result of "internal tensions" in the town and it was anticipated that staff might be able to return within a few weeks when the situation had calmed down, he added.
Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 17:38:49 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: SOMALIA: Eritrea denies arms shipment to Merka 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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