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Viewing cable 07ASMARA850, ASMARA ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT: MORE DETAILS EMERGE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASMARA850 2007-10-26 09:09 2010-12-15 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Asmara
VZCZCXRO0028
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0850/01 2990919
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 260919Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9208
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1482
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1658
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ASMARA 000850 

SIPDIS 

NOFORN 
SIPDIS 

LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2017 
TAGS: PGOV ASEC ER
SUBJECT: ASMARA ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT: MORE DETAILS EMERGE 

REF: A. A) 00821 ASMARA 

B. B) 00838 ASMARA 

Classified By: CDA Jennifer A. McIntyre, for reasons 1.4 (b) 
and (d). 

1. (S) Summary: As the investigation into the shooting of 
National Security Agency Deputy Colonel Simon Ghebredenghil 
continues, an Eritrean businessman believed to be involved in 
the assassination attempt was shot and killed by Government 
of the State of Eritrea (GSE) officials near the Ethiopian 
border. The GSE allegedly has arrested over 500 individuals 
in connection with the shooting, which may include the arrest 
of General Gerezgheri "Wuchu" Andemariam on October 24. The 
emerging details surrounding the assassination attempt are 
shining a bright light on the extent of corruption within the 
senior ranks of the military and showing the cracks in the 
outwardly unified faade of the President Isaias' government. 
Post will continue to monitor fallout from this incident and 
its possible implications for the GSE's inner circle and 
military preparedness in the face of possible conflict on the 
Eritrean-Ethiopian border. End Summary. 

--------------------------------------------- -- 
IMPLICATED BUSINESSMAN SAMSON KILLED BY THE GSE 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

2. (S/NF) Following the October 13 assassination attempt on 
Colonel Simon Ghebrendenghil, wealthy Eritrean businessman 
Samson (LNU), who had been implicated in the attempt, fled 
Asmara. Accompanied by the personal driver of General 
Gerezgheri "Wuchu" Andemariam and a military guard under 
General Wuchu's command, Samson traveled overland in a 
military Landcruiser stocked with a cache of arms. The group 
took refuge in an Eritrean Orthodox Church monastery near Adi 
Quala (to which Samson previously had made donations) waiting 
for the right time to flee across the Ethiopian border. GSE 
officials tracked Samson to the monastery. A firefight 
ensued and Samson was killed. The driver and guard were 
taken into custody and returned to Asmara. In a separate 
conversation with Emboff, XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed Samson's
death, the  existence of the weapons cache and the presence of
General  Wuchu's driver and guard at the shootout between 
Samson and  the GSE officials. 

3. (S) Samson, who was also know as the "civilian general", 
had a long-time business relationship with General Wuchu and 
others in the Eritrean military. In his late 30's, he ran a 
hardware and import/export business reported to have made 
millions by means of government contracts arranged by 
high-ranking military officials, and illegal foreign currency 
transactions and import/export exchanges over the past ten 
years. A partial owner of the Midian Hotel, Samson 
reportedly used the hotel as a means to launder money for 
military and government officials. 

----------------------- 
GENERAL WUCHU ARRESTED? 
----------------------- 

4. (S/NF) Rumors abound as to the status of General Wuchu. 
The reports have varied from claiming his departure from the 
country to his death. One Eritrean contact told Poloff he 
saw General Wuchu driving through Asmara on Monday, October 
22. The resident Reuters stringer shared with Poloff that in 
the late afternoon on Wednesday, October 24 one of his 
sources informed him of General Wuchu's arrest. 
XXXXXXXXXXXX told  to Poloff on Friday,  October 26 that
the GSE had arrested General Wuchu earlier in  the week.
(Comment: Post has been unable to confirm this  report.
Local observers also claim that over 500 individuals  have 
been arrested so far and anticipate that more arrests  are on
the horizon. These interlocutors also believe no  government
or military officials are immune from indictment. 
End Comment.) 

----------------------------------------- 
BUSINESSMAN FIKRE'S DEATH AND HIS FUNERAL 
----------------------------------------- 

ASMARA 00000850 002 OF 003 


5. (S) Reading like a John Grisham novel, more details of the 
circumstances leading to Fikremariam "Fikre" Andemariam's 
death are coming to light. (Fikre's death allegedly was the 
lead up to the assassination attempt.) According to a 
well-connected Eritrean, the saga began several months ago 
when Samson and three other businessman approached General 
Wuchu to contest the awarding of a tender to Fikre's company 
for installation of water pipes in the city of Asmara.  Despite the protests and GSE investigation, Fikre retained  the contract.
(Note: Fikre's company had also received all  of the supply
contracts for the construction of the Sawa  Military Camp in western Eritrea for the past 10 years. End  note.)
Tensions arose given the fierce competition among the 
few Eritrean businessmen who receive government contracts ) 
contracts that are primarily awarded to friends of 
high-ranking government officials (namely the military) who 
then skim a portion of the profits for themselves. Fikre 
reportedly began to fear for his life and asked for 
protection from XXXXXXXXXXXX.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Fikre returned to Asmara the  week of October 1, at which 
point, the GSE detained him in  Police Station #2, with at
least two of his brothers. (Note:  The brothers were released
after a few days. In addition,  employees of Fikre's supply
company have been in detention in  Police Station #2 since
the middle of August. End Note.) 

6. (S) Fikre reportedly died in jail on October 8. The 
family requested an autopsy be completed prior to his burial, 
protesting that Fikre had been young and healthy when 
entering the jail only a few days earlier. An Eritrean contact
told Poloff that only President Isaias, Colonel  Ghebredenghil 
and XXXXXXXXXXXX received copies of the  autopsy report. 
Despite never having done his mandatory  national service, 
Fikre received a hero's burial and was laid  to rest in Asmara'
 Martyr's Cemetery on October 12. The  funeral became a
city-wide event. One witness commented that  attendance at 
Fikre's funeral exceeded that of the two  biggest funerals since
the country's 1993 referendum - the  former Foreign Minister's 
funeral in 2005 and the funeral of  one of the founders of the
struggle in 2000. He observed  that the turnout essentially
represented a silent  demonstration by the people, as they are
 unable to protest in  other ways. 

----------------------- 
THE GSE'S OFFICIAL SPIN 
----------------------- 

7. (U) The Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) announced 
Tuesday, October 23 that "perpetrators" of the assassination 
attempt on Colonel Simon Ghebredenghil were in GSE custody, 
although the announcement did not include the names of those 
arrested. In an interview with Reuters, Acting Minister of 
Information Ali Abdu stated "the government had full control 
of the situation" but refused to comment on the details of 
the detentions. According to the Acting Minister, the 
investigation is ongoing. 

8. (U) Complementing the statements about the investigation, 
the GSE published an editorial about fighting corruption in 
the Arabic, Tigrinya and English government-controlled 
newspapers. Describing corruption as, "treason against our 
martyrs", and a vice that "pollutes and weakens any given 
society", the editorial likened fighting corruption to 
continuing the independence struggle and urged the people to 
join with the Government to fight against corruption. The 
editorial further insisted that "law enforcement bodies and 
the means for surveillance at their disposable should be 
strengthened and constantly updated", thus empowering the
GSE  to fight corruption by any means necessary. 


ASMARA 00000850 003 OF 003 


------------------------------- 
WHAT THE MAN ON THE STREET SAYS 
------------------------------- 

9. (C) Residents of Asmara state they were aware of the 
shenanigans of their military officers and their corrupt 
business activities. For example, General Filipos 
Woldeyohannes (formerly head of the western Gash Barka region 
and now head of the Asmara region) is well-known as the 
"go-to" general to arrange an escape to Sudan. Many  Eritreans regularly gossip about the homes which have been  appropriated from civilians and given to military or  government officials, or about the foreign travel of the  officers' families. As the details about corruption in the  military become public, Poloff has heard a common refrain  that "it is about time" these activities have come under 
public scrutiny. Many Eritrean observers believe that this 
incident will begin to crack the iron grip of President 
Isaias and his military officials over the government and the 
people of Eritrea. One high-ranking government official told 
Emboff, "Thank goodness. Now maybe things will change for 
the better." 

------- 
COMMENT 
------- 

10. (C) The assassination attempt on Colonel Ghebredenghil 
has created a real dilemma for the GSE by publicizing the 
existence of deep-rooted corruption within the military -- 
making it impossible for the GSE to hide or deny these 
charges. Within the higher levels of the GSE, there appear 
to be a split into two tiers: those who are still committed 
to the ideals of independence struggle and who will use any 
means to bankroll and continue the struggle, and those out to 
make as much money as possible for their own bank accounts. 
The question remains: can the first tier ) the President and 
his immediate circle - effectively battle and contain the 
fallout from this incident or does this incident presage the 
beginning of the regime's fall from grace? 

11. (S/NF) Post will continue to monitor the potential 
impacts on the military. Multiple sources indicate that the 
GSE leadership anticipates an outbreak of hostilities with 
Ethiopia in the near future. With General Wuchu possibly in 
prison, speculation from many observers that General Filipos 
is next, and reports that numerous colonels have fled or are 
in prison, the military leadership is clearly shaken and the 
impact on morale of the military is unknown at this point. 
Finally, if the GSE cracks down on the illegal financial 
operations of the military and its privileged businessmen, 
the GSE may end up limiting those resources available to the 
military for maintaining its large number of recruits and to 
prepare for conflict. End Comment. 
MCINTYRE