Dissident Eritrean soldiers who had seized the Information Ministry were gone yesterday and calm returned to the capital, Asmara, a diplomat said.

The soldiers took over the ministry on Monday to demand the release of political prisoners, a sign of a rift between some factions of the military and president, Isaias Afewerki.

Eritrea's envoy to South Africa said there had been a small incident at the ministry but order had been restored. It was unclear how order had been restored in the secretive one-party state, where dissent is typically dealt with harshly.

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