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In Eritrea, Dozens of Street Killings by Guerrillas Heighten a Mood of Terror

SEPT. 26, 1975

source https://www.nytimes.com/1975/09/26/archives/in-eritrea-dozens-of-street-killings-by-guerrillas-heighten-a-mood.html?fbclid=IwAR0b_ncDX7Rj6XvUEcnLltYNlUgwgwrSBk4fwd6zb2QD9bdz1UUchS84zWE

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September 26, 1975, Page 4 The New York Times Archives

ASMARA. Ethiopia. Sept. 24 (Reuters)—A burly ex‐sailor drained his morning cup of coffee in the Royal Bar here and shouldered his way through a string curtain screening the doorway into the bright sunshine of the street.

A young man stepped out of the shadows behind him, held a gun to the nape of his neck and fired. The man fell dying to the pavement and the gunman slipped away unchallenged.

A few weeks earlier, another gunm?n has strolled into flowershop in Asmara's palmlined Haile Selassie Avenue and shot a young woman serving behind the counter. He escaped.

These are typical of the dozens of murders in Asmara this year as guerrillas fighting for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia settle scores with enemies.

The Eritreans have been seeking independence from Ethiopia, which took over this former Italian colony in 1952, since 1970, when the Eritrean Liberation Front began guerrilla activity.

An Eritrean asserting that he spoke for the Popular Liberation Front said in an interview that gunmen of his grout) and of the Fritrean Liberation Front wlre responsible for the street killings.

Motives For Killings

The victims represented three groups, he said—Government agents and informers, front members who refused to carry out assignments or turned traitor and nonmembers who refused to comply with demands for food, medicine and other supplies.

The roonlar Liberation Front has carried out 45 such killings this year the guerrilla said, and the Eritrian Liberation Front has a toll of 98 killines.

Some residents thought this total of 143 was exaggerated. Others said that it could well be accurate and that killings were occurring almost daily.

Brig. Gen. Getachew Nadew, administrator of martial law for the province, said when asked about the killings: “It is difficult to tell how many there have been, maybe six in the past month.” He added that in most cases the motive fnr killings was personal as Eritreans took advantage of the disturbed situation to settle old grievances.

He said however that one reason for the ban he imposed last July on the use of bicycles and motor‐bicycles in the city was to prevent their being used by gunmen fleeing after a killing.

Asmara's taxis were also banned from the streets for six days this month after one was found to have carried a rebel, he said.

Whatever the exact figures, violent death in the street has become common in Asmara, A graceful town of Italian style in the highlands of Ethiopia. with wide and clean avenues, villas and public buildings with a grand Roman touch.

Two persons were shot to death one recent morning. One was the ex‐sailor, who, according to rebel sympathizers, had been a police agent and a member of a squad alleged to have strangled civilians with wire in the bloody violence in the city last February.

In the afternoon security forces shot a man dead outside the Italian Consulate.

Two days later about 50 shots were fired in a battle in the center of the city, sending civilians scurrying for shelter and armored cars speeding through the streets. The Government said later that three (rebels had been killed.

This steadily mounting death toll has heightened the tension under which Asmara's 150.000 people have been living since a popular liberation front offensive plunged the province’ into secessionist rebellion.

This is a city where any prudent citizen is off the streets; by 6 P.M., well before the official start of the curfew. As curfevi‐hour approaches, edgy; troops and policemen are indined to shoot first and ask questions afterward if they see someone moving in the dusk.

With nightfall the city sinks. into a shuttered‐window si‘ence. Occasionally a clog barks. A policeman clutching an auto matic pistol mutters a greeting as he relieves another on guard. ieepload of heavily armed troops with a 50‐caliber machinegun moves slowly past.

Every few nights, there is a burst of gunfire or the thud of a rocket fired at an army post in one of the old Italianbuilt forts overlooking the city.

The hit‐and‐run guerrilla attacks seem intended mainly to keep the security forces on constant alert.

Residents here say that troops or policemen will sometimes shoot at shadows or even deliberately open fire on houses to work off their frustration at not being able to pin down the guerrillas.

According to the guerrilla who said he represented the Popular Liberation Front the guerrillas bring in gunmen froth out of town to carry out the killings.

Three‐man guerrilla “courts” sit in secret in Asmara he said, to iudge those alleged to be enemies of their cause.

If a case is found proved, the accused may he given as many as three warnings. If, after the warnings a suspected Governagent does not leave town or merchant does not provide the funds nr supplies “demanded from him, his name is put on a death list.

When a few names have accumulated, the guerrilla said, word goes out to rebel units in the field. Selected gunmen slip into the city and meet contacts who supply them with weapons, guide them to the chosen killing site and point out the victims. The gunmen move in, make their kills and fade back into the countryside after having tirned in their weapons, he continued.

The guerrilla source said that so far only two gunmen had been caught and hanged.

Province Leader Killed

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Sept. 25 (Agence France‐Presse)—The administrator of Ethiopia's Begemdir‐Simien Province has been assassinated by “reactionaries opposed to the revolution.” the press here reported today, but gave no details.

People in the strongly traditionalist Begemdir and Simien regions have opposed the military government's land reforms.

A version of this archives appears in print on September 26, 1975, on Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: In Eritrea, Dozens of Street Killings by Guerrillas Heighten a Mood of Terror. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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