Eritrea back to normal after ‘small incident’

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DISSIDENT Eritrean soldiers who seized the country’s information ministry on Monday were gone yesterday and calm returned to the capital, Asmara, an Eritrean envoy said.

The soldiers took over the ministry to demand the release of thousands of political prisoners, a sign of a deepening rift between some factions of the military and the secretive country’s president, Isaias Afewerki.

Eritrea’s envoy to South Africa said there had been a “small incident” at the ministry but that order had been restored.

“The situation in Asmara and elsewhere is no different from any other day,” Salih Omar Abdu said. State television was back on air. Its main headline was about heavy snow in Paris.

It was unclear how order had been restored in the one-party state, where dissent is typically dealt with harshly.

The country has become increasingly isolated under Mr Isaias, 66, a former guerrilla who led Eritrea to independence in 1993 after a 30-year war with the government in Ethiopia.

Growing economic hardship for many Eritreans – despite an influx of investment from gold miners – is eating away at Mr Isaias’s support base, regional diplomats and academics say, including in the army. Eritrea has more soldiers per person than any country except North Korea.