Ethiopia says it intercepted rebels linked to arch-rival Eritrea

December 1, 2016 12:15 PM EST

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By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian troops killed 15 armed rebels crossing from Ethiopia's arch-rival Eritrea over the weekend, and captured more than 70, an official said on Thursday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tewolde Mulugeta said the insurgents were members of Ginbot 7, which Ethiopia says is backed by Eritrea.

He said 115 insurgents had entered Ethiopia's Tigray region on Saturday and then been attacked by soldiers and local militiamen: "Of the 115, our troops killed 15 rebels and captured 73."

Eritrean government officials were not immediately available for comment; they routinely dismiss allegations by Ethiopia, which they in turn accuse of seeking to destabilize the region.

The two nations often accuse one another of supporting insurgencies in the other country -- a legacy of years of bitter conflict that has left them with a disputed border.

Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, won independence in 1991 after 30 years of war. Seven years later, hostilities erupted again, over the border, and around 70,000 people were killed.

A peace agreement was signed in 2000, but enmity continues. Ethiopia wants a full negotiated settlement and Eritrea demands the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from a disputed town.

In July, the two countries traded accusations of aggression along their disputed frontier, and each claimed to have repulsed the other and inflicted heavy casualties.

(Editing by Katharine Houreld and Kevin Liffey)



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