Brief Biography:

Col. Kassa Gebremariam

In the early days of his career Colonel Kassa Gebremariam was an instructor at Holota-Genet Military School and Harar Military Academy. He was not just an instructing officer but the kind of officer that the young cadets emulated. Later he was appointed commander of the previously mentioned school as well.

When it comes to his academic qualifications he had taken the entire required infantry officer’s courses in Ethiopia, and then took Basic Infantry Officer’s, Advanced Infantry Officer’s and Command and Staff College courses in the USA. He was also trained in Ranger course, Airborne, Communications and Maintenance of military vehicles in the USA. He has had Intelligence and Counter – Intelligence course from Yugoslavia as well. It is self-evident that, by any international measure of standards, Colonel Kassa Gebremariam was a well-qualified professional and certainly a well-rounded officer.

At the time when the Somalia commandos, disguised as local guerrilla fighters, were perpetrating attacks and creating havoc deep in the territory of Ethiopia, Colonel Kassa Gebremariam, with the help of some officers from Israel, trained and formed the first Special Force in Ethiopia. Then in retaliation to the Somali armed band’s actions Colonel Kassa Gebremariam, commanding his force, executed several successful secret missions across the Somalia border that eventually resulted with the Somalia government not only being forced to stop the incursions but also succumb to a peaceful negotiation with Ethiopia.

Again when the Ethiopian Airlines, the only airlines in the country, was on the verge of stopping its flights because of recurring hijacks and attacks on its airplanes, Colonel Kassa Gebremariam was the one who organized, trained and formed an Anti-hijacking force (Air Marshals) for it. The Ethiopian Anti-hijacking Force was the first of its kind in Ethiopia and the second to Israel in the world. It was launched amidst staunch opposition internationally; however, it was so successful that other airlines in other countries copied it.

It was when the Eritrean secessionist groups escalated their attack and controlled almost all of Eritrea, except for a few major cities, that the Task Force Campaign was initiated. Colonel Kassa Gebremariam led one of the Task Forces and won a decisive victory against both Eritrean liberation fronts and reached Asmara from Tigrai, opening up the main roads connecting Asmara with the rest of Ethiopia. After his victory the remaining Task Forces followed suit by viciously attacking the secessionist groups and forcing them to flee back to their base, the rugged and arid area of Sahle, from Nakfa to the north up to the Sudan border.

The last phase of the Task Force Campaign was to liberate Nakfa, the last strong hold of the secessionists. Nakfa, besides being on a difficult terrain, was also well fortified with a lot of ditches and canals. At this stage Colonel Kassa Gebremariam was given a special mission. The goal of this mission was to go deep into the enemy’s occupied area and control their supply route. The operation was daring and extraordinary because of the rugged terrain and arid nature of the area. With a surprise attack that the secessionists had ever faced before, he led his force on foot, penetrating the area between Nakfa and Algena Fronts, and controlled the route in a short time. This offense was so decisive that it put the enemy in a desperate situation. In three days of fierce fighting hundreds of lives perished from both sides. In the mean while the enemy, which was continuously getting some reinforcement and supply each day, turned things around and started to attack viciously. Colonel Kassa’s force, with no reinforcement and supply at all, exhausted, fatigued and overwhelmed with thirst started to go on disarray. The dwindling and remaining force ended up being encircled by the enemy and yet kept on fighting stubbornly. At last our hero, Colonel Kassa Gebremariam, with his dignity, pride and composure intact, killed himself – sacrificing his life for his country and his people.