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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Eritrea holds US embassy workers
President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
The US and EU have been critical of President Afewerki's government
By Alex Last in Asmara

Two Eritrean employees at the US embassy in Asmara have been detained by security personnel, the Eritrean Government has confirmed.

The arrets were on Friday, the same day the US released a statement which criticised the Eritrean Government for its clampdown on dissent.

The two men, Ali Alamin and Kiflom Gebre Michael had been working in the political and economic affairs office at the embassy.

The Eritrean Goverrnment has now detained without charge more than 20 leading dissidents, independent journalists and prominent Eritreans as well as closing down the private press.

Eritrean Government media has accused those arrested of conspiring to endanger the security of the nation.

'Unrelated'

Eritrean presidential adviser, Yemane Gebremeskal told the BBC that the arrests of the two embassy employees was not related to the critical US statement, as they were detained before it was released.

"It has nothing to do with US policy," he said, "it is a local matter relating to other activities".

There is, as yet, no official reaction from the US embassy here.

The specific reasons for their detention are not clear, though the government has repeatedly warned of the presence of secret cells inside the country, created by the dissidents before their arrest.

But in a small city like Asmara, many people have either a professional or personal connection to those who have been detained.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrean dissident set for return
08 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea denies preparing for war
02 Oct 01 | Africa
Italy expels Eritrea's ambassador
02 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea plays down diplomatic row
01 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea expels Italian ambassador
21 Sep 01 | Africa
Concern over Eritrea detainees
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