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Assab is a Red Sea port city in southeastern Eritrea and the country’s second most important port. Formerly a terminus of caravan routes across the Denakil plain, the Bay of Assab was purchased by the Italian Rubattino Shipping Company from a local ruler in 1869 and became the foundation of the colony of Italian Eritrea. In 1952, after the creation of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Federation, Ethiopia took control of Assab and it became its main port, handling 70 percent of its global trade. It also housed Ethiopia’s first petroleum refinery. With the start of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war in 1998, however, trade ended and Assab’s importance declined. Its role diminished further in 2008 after a border dispute with neighboring Djibouti.