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Conflict

Eritrean troops besiege Ministry of Information

A group of Eritrean soldiers has surrounded the Ministry of Information in the capital city. It has not yet been verified what caused the siege.

Over 100 mutinous soldiers placed themselves around Eritrea's Ministry of Information in the capital city Asmara on Monday in a call for political reform, according to unnamed diplomatic sources. There are reportedly tanks involved in the siege.

There were no reports of shots being fired.

The director of state television was forced by the troops to read a statement on air,

"The soldiers have forced him to speak on state TV, to say the Eritrean government should release all political prisoners," a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency.

State television was shut off soon after the statement.

It was unclear whether the incident on Monday was part of a government takeover or simply a protest, as initial reports had been unable to verify the many details surrounding the event.

An Eritrean reporter based in Paris with independent Radio Erena told the AFP news agency that sources had been unable to relay much information.

"We do not know who is leading the situation... everybody has been put into the same room [in the ministry]," Eritrean reporter Amanuel Ghirmai said.

President Isaias Afewerki, 66, has ruled the Red Sea country since it broke from neighboring Ethiopia 20 years ago. His rule has been characterized by heavy censorship of the media and harsh punishment for political opponents.

kms/hc (AFP, Reuters)