Eritrea troops siege ministry

Eritrea troops siege ministry

A group of Eritrean soldiers laid siege to the information ministry yesterday and forced state media to announce a call for the release of political prisoners, a senior intelligence official said.

Dozens of soldiers with two tanks surrounded the ministry building in Asmara, regional diplomatic sources said. They said state television and radio had gone off air.

The renegade soldiers forced the director of state television to make an announcement, the Eritrean intelligence official said. “The soldiers have forced him to speak on state TV, to say the Eritrean government should release all political prisoners,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate indication it was an attempt to overthrow the government of Eritrea, which has been led by Isaias Afewerki, 66, for some two decades since it broke away from bigger neighbor Ethiopia.

The United Nations last year estimated that 5,000-10,000 political prisoners were being held in the secretive Horn of Africa country, which is accused by human rights groups of carrying out torture and summary executions.