Two Christians were reported to have died under harsh conditions in Eritrea's military confinement this month, bringing the total of known deaths within the past four months to three believers.
Mogos Hagos Kiflom, 37, and Mehari Gebreneguse Asgedom, 42, both died in the northeastern Mitire Military Confinement camp in the eastern African nation of Eritrea, sources told the Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA.
It is not known exactly when Kiflom was arrested or when he died, but Asgedom is said to have died on Jan. 16 from ongoing physical torture and complications related to his diabetes.
The men, who were both members of churches, were brought to Mitire Military Confinement that was said to be built with the purpose of punishing Christians who persist in their religious activities despite the government's ban.
Christians across the country are moved to Mitire where they reportedly suffer from physical torture and forced labor.
Last November, a man in his 80's was arrested along with 34 other members of the Kale-Hiwot Church in the southern town of Dekemhare and were brought to Mitire. Those arrested repotedly included in the group are 17 women.
Another 15 male members of the Kale-Hiwot Church in Keren, the second largest city in Eritrea, were arrested on Jan. 11, 2009. At the time of the report on Wednesday, the Christians were still kept at the local police station with the possibility of being moved to Mitire.
The Eritrean government is one of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world and has carried out a brutal crackdown on all churches outside of the government-approved Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Lutheran denominations and Islam.
Members of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches are given the harshest treatment because of the government's high suspicion of the newer Christian movements.
Some 2,000 Eritrean Christians are estimated to be under arrest without trial or legal charge for the sole reason of their religious beliefs, according to Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency that reports exclusively on the persecution of Christians.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has repeatedly recommended that Eritrea be listed in the U.S. State Department's "countries of particular concern" (CPC) – the blacklist for countries with severe religious freedom violations. The US. Department of State re-designated Eritrea a CPC in 2006.
"Eritrea continues to imprison Christians while denying that persecution is taking place. Many are tortured and the government does not allow them a fair hearing," said Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller.
"Please continue to keep the families of those two Christians who died this month in your thoughts and prayers," he added.
Kiflom leaves behind a wife and one child, while Asgedom is survived by a widowed mother.