Eritrea is a little country on the Red Sea, in the neighborhood of Somalia. It fought its way free of Ethiopia in the early 90s. It’s had some wars and generally been unstable since then, but it popped up in the news three different ways this week.
HRW says every year thousands of Eritreans flee their country, where statutory national service, which used to last 18 months, has been made indefinite.
The advocacy group says most of Eritrea’s adult population is currently conscripted.
Sixteen years after it won independence from Ethiopia following a three-decade war, Eritrea is one of the most closed and repressive states in the world, says the report.
President Obama’s January inauguration was hit by FBI warnings about a potential suicide threat from 12 American citizens that had left Africa to infiltrate the US and disappeared.
Subsequently Washington quietly warned Eritrea, a former Italian colony which was occupied by Britain during the Second World War, it could suffer the same fate as Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks, if the plot was carried out.
The Israelis fear Eritrea could be a flashpoint if Iranian Revolutionary Guards continue to ship arms to militants in Gaza via the Eritrean port of Assab. Israel is said to have two Eritrean bases, one a “listening post” for signals intelligence, the other a supply base for its German-built submarines.
In Sudan in February, Israeli drones thought to be based in Eritrea attacked an arms convoy bound for Hamas militants in Gaza, and several Revolutionary Guards escorting the convoy were reportedly killed.