ASMARA, Eritrea—In early February of this year, a six-man squad of British mercenaries were caught red-handed in the midst of preparing an attempt to assassinate the top leadership of the Eritrean government in the port city of Massawa on the Red Sea.
Of the six, four were apprehended and two managed to escape, abandoning their mates while blazing out of Massawa Bay into the Red Sea in an inflatable speedboat, never to be seen again by Eritrean eyes.
A search of the vessel they arrived on uncovered a cache of tools of the assassins’ trade. Included was a small arsenal of automatic weapons, a sophisticated satellite communications system, state of the art electronic target range finders, and most damning, several sniper rifles.
All of those arrested have since been confirmed as employees of a British “security” firm akin to the notorious US company Blackwater/Xe. At least two of the four are former British Special Forces. As in the case of Richard Davis, the CIA killer caught in the act in Pakistan, the British Foreign Office has been claiming Vienna Convention protections for these gun thugs all but confirming their being on an official mission for the British Government.
Their arrest took place just a few hundred yards from our Red Sea home in Massawa, and happened while we were there. In the weeks and months that followed, each time I have driven by that spot I have felt a sick feeling in my stomach for the salt embankment they were hiding behind has an unobstructed view of the site where just a few days later all the top leadership of the Eritrean government would be gathering for the annual outdoor celebration of the 1990 capture of the Port of Massawa by Eritrean liberation fighters.
These professional killers were discovered almost by accident by a woman, taking a short cut home through an adjacent out of service salt flat, who noticed, as all good Eritreans should, that sa’ada, white people, were taking photos (with telephoto lenses) somewhere they were not allowed. These Brit “diplomats” took their sweet time scoping out their firing points and parameters of their potential killing field for their discoverer had to walk almost a mile to the nearest police station to report this and then the police had to drive the roundabout route to the spot in question.
But for the vigilance of one Eritrean woman Eritrea might have experienced an unthinkable disaster, the loss of Eritrea’s president and only god knows how many of Eritrea’s top leaders.
This is not the first time I have written about an attempt to assassinate Eritrea’s leadership. In 2002 and 2003, I wrote of how during the Western backed Ethiopian invasion of Eritrea in 2000 a series of long range artillery attacks destroyed Eritrean front line command centers within minutes of President/Commander-in-Chief Issias Aferworki departure. In one case, there is strong evidence that a missile caused the destruction, and if this is true, it is almost certain to have been launched by a US fighter aircraft at high altitude.
Again, the question must be asked, why would the West want to kill Eritrea’s leaders?
Maybe its because Eritrea’s economy is once again about to don the mantle of the fastest growing economy in Africa, and this without significant Western aid projects or predatory loans from the IMF and World Bank.
More likely it’s the fact Eritrea has long been a thorn in the side of Western attempts to dominate the Horn of Africa, one of the most strategically important regions in the world. With some 40 percent of the world maritime traffic passing Eritrean shores everyday, including much of the world’s oil and the entire trade between China, Japan and India with the EU, the Horn of Africa may not be of concern to the average Westerner, but those in power in Western capitals know better.
The policy of the USA and its Western allies is one of “crisis management” here in Africa. The West creates a crisis and then manages, or exploits the war and chaos that follows, to divide and conquer, the better to loot and plunder the natural and human resources of a region.
Eritrea has been the main obstacle to the Western implementation of this policy in the Horn of Africa, and this explains this desperate attempt to assassinate Eritrea’s leadership.
The saying is “that all roads to peace in the Horn of Africa run through Asmara [Eritrea]” and I have witnessed firsthand its truth. Peace in Sudan was born and nurtured here in Asmara, first in Eastern Sudan, then with the South and now the ongoing Dafur peace efforts.
A grand attempt was made here in Asmara to reconstitute a new government in Somalia, though this was sabotaged by the West and its Ethiopian enforcers.
The denizens of the intelligence offices in the West responsible for Africa remember all too well how a short two decades ago it was a rag-tag, Afro coifed army of Eritrean guerilla fighters driving captured Ethiopian tanks that smashed their way across northern Ethiopia, drove the dictator Mengistu from power and brought peace to Ethiopia for the first time in 30 years.
This past year I have witnessed a disparate collection of leaders of far-flung ethnic-based Ethiopian guerilla fighters gathering here in Asmara, beginning to build a consensus on how to construct a new, national unity government to help keep the peace in Ethiopia once the Meles Zenawi regime is driven from power.
All of this is the main threat to the West’s implementing its policy of “crisis management” in the Horn of Africa.
With its empire in decline, suffering defeat after defeat, unable even to drive Muammar Gaddafi from power, despite the combined airpower of most of NATO’s European members, one would be wise to expect ever more desperate measures from the Western regimes.
The Western elite may loudly preach about the rule of law but reality is that international law is the law of the jungle where only the strong survive. Eritrea is not only surviving but ever so slowly growing stronger and more influential every day, which should help explain why British mercenaries brought their assassins’ tools to Eritrean shores.
Note; Some of the information in this article comes from the independent.co.uk, including the employment confirmation of the British mercenaries, their background and the British Foreign Office claims of Vienna Convention protections for them. Firsthand interviews with Eritreans directly involved are the basis for the rest of the story.
Thomas C. Mountain is the only independent Western journalist in the Horn of Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006.