Eritrean and Ethiopian forces clashed today along their disputed border, with each side accusing the other of starting the fighting.

Eritrea said Ethiopian forces pummeled Eritrean positions at dawn with tank and artillery fire in a bid to recapture the town of Zala Ambessa, 65 miles southeast of the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Eritrean forces seized the border town of 15,000 last week.But in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, officials said Eritrean troops struck first, storming Ethiopian defensive positions south of Zala Ambessa.

"They came to attack in the morning, three times, regrouping and attacking, regrouping and attacking," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yemane Kidane said. He said the Eritreans suffered heavy casualties.

The northeast African nations are engaged in a battle over their border. Ethiopia is resisting attempts by its smaller, northern neighbor to control territory it says is wrongly held by Ethiopia.

With hostilities between the Horn of Africa neighbors escalating, the U.S. government prepared Tuesday to evacuate another 120 of its citizens, along with Germans, Egyptians and some Ethiopians.