President Isayas Afewerki has announced that 19,000 Eritrean soldiers were killed during the 1998-2000 border conflict with Ethiopia, before it ended last May. The announcement was made at a ceremony to mark Eritrea’s Martyrs’ Day, which commemorates soldiers lost during the war of independence and the recent border war. A BBC correspondent in Asmara said the impact on Eritrean society of the recent war had been enormous “not least because every Eritrean family has someone in the armed forces”. Although the number of wounded was not announced, it is thought to be very high, the BBC said on Wednesday. The Eritrean population is estimated at about 3 million, compared to more than 60 million in neighbouring Ethiopia.
In reaction to the announcement, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yemane Kidane told the BBC he believed the Eritrean figure to be ridiculously low - but declined to give any official figures for Ethiopian casualties, saying few governments would give out such details.
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