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Cablegate: Ngo Staff Taken at Gunpoint

VZCZCXRO9593
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0420 2381412
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251412Z AUG 08 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9861
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHWCW
RUEAIIA/CIAWSHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ
RHRMDAB/COMUSNAVCENT
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS ASMARA 000420

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (SUBJECT LINE)

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E AND DRL
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV ER
SUBJECT: NGO STAFF TAKEN AT GUNPOINT

REF: ASMARA 000417

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE)
soldiers invaded NGO compounds August 14, rounding up local
employees (reftel). Though most employees were later
returned, the GSE took several to the Wi'a military prison
camp. Employees of diplomatic missions were not affected,
although rumors indicate that the GSE may attempt to do the
same to Embassy locally engaged staff in the near future.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) On Thursday evening reports circulated of GSE
soldiers storming NGO compounds guns drawn, demanding all
local employees to come with them. The director of Dutch
Interchurch Aid (DIA) later corroborated these reports.
Accordingly, the director stated that 15 soldiers invaded the
DIA main office around 4pm, thoroughly searching for local
employees, including on the roof and in the bathroom. The
soldiers took DIA's entire staff into custody. Similar
reports streamed in from five of the other eight
international NGOs (Norwegian Church Aid, Catholic Relief
Services, OXFAM, Gruppo Missioni Asmarino, and Istituto
Sindacale Di Cooperazione Allo Sviluppo). Soldiers also
abducted staff from two local NGOs, Vision Eritrea and Toker
International, looking for specific individuals on a list
rather than taking the entire workforce (soldiers took 20
from Vision Eritrea and three from Toker International).
Soldiers also searched the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
compound for five specific individuals, one of which was
present and taken by the soldiers.

3. (SBU) The soldiers took the staff from internatQoQal NGOs
to
o
ice Station No. 1 and those from local NGOs to Police
Station No. 6, the director stated. GSE officials then
called out individual names, ordering those whose names were
called to stay; the rest were released. The DIA director
reported that about 10 names from various NGOs were called;
GSE officials transported these individuals to Adi Abeto, a
transiting point before being sent to the Wi'a military
prison camp. The director speculated that officials released
those who have completed national service, while younger
employees (those most likely to have escaped national service
thus far) were taken to Wi'a.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: Rumors swirl that the GSE will soon
attempt to round up Embassy locally engaged staff in a
similar fashion. While Post does not believe the GSE would
storm Embassy compounds, we believe they would set up
checkpoints along common travelling routes in order to check
employees for identification and national service completion
papers. End Comment.
TABLER-STONE

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