Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Ethiopia has long been seen as one of the safest destinations in Africa, with its relatively stable society, well-developed infrastructure and modern air transport systems, according to Forbes .
The African nation is now a popular stopover for flights departing from the United States to China. But is the travel information bulletin posturing or having a serious fear?
The US government has confirmed to CNN that intelligence reports indicate that the Ethiopian military is carrying out Operation Tiger Lion and is “positioning tactical weapons” along the country’s northern border with South Sudan and Kenya.
According to a US embassy statement sent to CNN, “there are no additional changes to the description of the threats or the location or type of weapons involved in the threat stream.”
These “bi-national threats,” as US government officials described them, are attributed to a senior defector in the Ethiopian military (formerly part of the same organization as the US Defense Department).
Preliminary analysis indicates that the weapons have “radiological capabilities,” according to the embassy.
CNN got the statement in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Iranian journalist Amir Toumaj.
“We were investigating the root causes of the tensions that happened in Ethiopia and our investigation led us to focus on the military and they gave us the opportunity to contact the US government,” said Toumaj, who is now based in Germany.
Lidija Breck of CIES, the international pressure group that has been investigating the incidents in Ethiopia, says that there is now evidence that it has expanded from the man named by U.S. government officials in recent days.
“According to what we understand from reports coming out of Addis Ababa, this is a much larger mobilization with military officers and special forces officers deployed to various regions.”
The Ethiopian government is refusing to take part in scheduled satellite imagery analysis from CIES.
“What we have heard from Ethiopian government sources is that they are not cooperating in the analysis because they fear the analysis would point to equipment that belongs to the military,” Breck said.
As with the earlier incidents , the source of the intelligence is concerned that weapons could be aimed in a direction intended to harm American and European interests in Kenya and South Sudan.
The US State Department updated its travel alert for Ethiopia earlier this month, warning: “Confidential military communications intercepts reveal a division within the Ethiopian armed forces that believes that developments in neighboring South Sudan and neighboring Kenya point to an attempt to destroy its hard-won gains.”
The embassy added: “Tactical weapons, likely rockets and missiles, have reportedly been positioned along the nation’s northern border with South Sudan and Kenya.”
But the US is taking a balanced approach.
“There is no information in our travel alert that has increased the risk to American citizens,” said Robert Palladino, the spokesman for the US embassy in Addis Ababa.