Ethiopia’s air force shot down a plane carrying weapons that crossed the border from Sudan, a senior security official said, ratcheting up tensions between the neighbors just as Ethiopia’s civil war resumes.
Relations between the Horn of Africa’s two most-populous nations deteriorated in late June, with their forces exchanging fire at the disputed territory of al-Fashqa after Sudanese soldiers were reported killed. Ethiopia and Sudan are also at odds over Ethiopia’s unilateral plans to fill and operate a giant dam it has built on a tributary of the Nile River.
The claimed downing of the aircraft came hours after reports of renewed fighting between Ethiopian government forces and fighters from the northern Tigray region, five months after the two sides declared a cease-fire.
Sudanese army spokesman Nabil Abdallah said by phone that his country had no connection to the alleged incident.
“The military explained that a plane belonging to historical enemies of our country, who are known for their incessant desire to weaken our country, was shot down,” Redwan Hussein, the national security adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said on Twitter.
Both forces loyal to Abiy and their Tigrayan rebel opponents traded blame for the resumption of conflict Wednesday. It ended a truce enacted in March that brought hopes of an end to more than 16 months of brutal civil war.
Residents interviewed by Bloomberg who asked not to be identified said they heard heavy artillery near Kobo town, which is in Ethiopia’s Amhara region and about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region. It wasn’t immediately clear if there were casualties.
The conflict in Ethiopia has devastated the lives of millions of peoples and left most of Tigray without power or reliable communications, while souring Ethiopia’s reputation as one of Africa’s top investment destinations.
Getachew Reda, a senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, said on Twitter that the government had launched “a major offensive” in the vicinity of Kobo after federal forces and militias from the neighboring Amhara region opened fire at around 5 a.m. He said Tigrayan forces were defending their positions.
The government’s communication service blamed Tigray forces for clashes it said erupted on the border of the Tigray and Afar regions.
“Leaving aside all the peace efforts from the government, the terrorist group that has been waging war for the past couple of days has launched an attack this morning in the eastern front,” it said in a statement.
The two sides’ leaders have yet to meet face to face, and ongoing animosity between them has impeded efforts to distribute aid and delayed reconstruction. Special envoys from Europe and the US recently visited Africa’s second-most populous country in an effort to broker talks but weren’t successful.
— With assistance by Mohammed Alamin