An Ethiopian air force pilot has defected to Eritrea, flying a helicopter across the border with his co-pilot and a technician, Ethiopian state-run media said on Tuesday.
The three men had been missing since Friday morning soon after leaving their base on a routine training session, Ethiopian Television reported.
Eritrea and Ethiopia have been locked in a border dispute for years and routinely accuse each other of backing rebels trying to destabilise and topple the other’s government – a legacy from the two-year war they fought in the late 1990s.
“The military helicopter landed in Eritrea, flown by a traitor pilot who forced both his co-pilot and a technician while they took part in a training exercise,” the report said, citing a defence ministry statement.
It did not give further details.
No official from either side was available for comment, but reports from pro-Eritrean government outlets and those of opposition groups said the helicopter was an MI-35 gunship.
Ethiopia says the spat over the demarcation of their shared border following the 1998-2000 war would only be solved through a negotiated settlement.
Eritrea wants Ethiopia to pull its troops out before normalising relations, citing a decision by a Hague-based boundary commission which awarded it the flashpoint frontier village of Badme in 2002.