Officials in Sudan’s Kassala state have closed the border with neighboring Ethiopia because of stepped-up tensions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region over the past few days.
Fathal-Rahman Al-Amin, the acting governor for Kassala state, said the border will remain closed until hostilities have subsided in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which is a few kilometers from Kassala.
On Friday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the military carried out a series of airstrikes against regional security forces in the northern Tigray region that destroyed rockets and other heavy artillery.
The government “has been forced to take rule of law enforcement measures to effectively respond to the unceasing belligerence perpetrated by the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) clique in violation” of the constitution, Abiy said in a statement last week, which initiated a six-month state of emergency.
Al-Amin said Kassala state officials formed a local committee to monitor the Wed Al-Helio crossing point on the Sudan-Ethiopia border and said Sudanese authorities would assist in receiving civilians who might be fleeing violence in Ethiopia.
Kassala officials will not allow any group to enter Sudan and turn Sudanese territory into a battlefield, Al-Amin said.
“We will not allow anyone carrying guns to enter Kassala. But those who are unarmed, we have a local committee that will immediately assist them at Wed Al-Helio border crossing,” he said.
Clashes broke out between the government and the TPLF in Tigray last Wednesday after Abiy accused area leaders of attacking government military bases and trying to steal artillery and equipment. The two sides were part of a governing coalition that ruled the country until 2018, when Abiy took power.
On Thursday, Birhanu Jula, deputy chief of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, said more government troops were being dispatched to the area and declared that Ethiopia had entered an “unexpected war” in Tigray.
After last week’s developments, Al-Amin instructed Sudan’s security organizations, including the Sudan Armed Forces, to be vigilant along the Sudan-Ethiopia border.
“We don’t want to see any kinds of unlawful gatherings. We won’t allow anyone, any group or individuals carrying guns who have caused insecurity in their country to come into Kassala. All these will be fixed by our security. Our border is officially shut down as from today until an unknown date,” Al-Amin said.
Eyewitnesses in Kassala say there is a heavy deployment of Sudanese armed forces in the town. They also said Rapid Support Forces, a Sudanese paramilitary group, could be seen heading toward the Ethiopian border Sunday night.