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The commander of Ethiopian forces in the war-torn northern province of Eritrea was killed Thursday when the government put down his attempt to stage a coup d'etat, the official Ethiopian News Agency said Friday.

The agency said Maj. Gen. De-misse Bulto, commander of the Second Army, was killed in fierce fighting around the Eritrean capital of Asmara.Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam, in a nationwide broadcast Thursday night, said loyalist troops had crushed the attempted coup in Asmara.

The news agency said Demisse's second in command, Maj. Gen. Ku-melachew Dejen, was still at large after having come to Addis Ababa to organize the coup attempt there.

It said Demisse had been "betraying the country by opening negotiations with the enemies of Ethiopia," in secret talks with the secessionist Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front.

The EPLF has been fighting the government for 28 years, seeking independence for the Red Sea province of Eritrea.

On Thursday it declared a two-week cease-fire to help rebel soldiers in Asmara in their bid to topple Mengistu.

Telex and telephone links to Ethiopia were restored Thursday evening, and an Ethiopian Airlines official in Nairobi said Addis Ababa airport was reopened Friday morning.

The coup attempt started Tuesday, just hours after Mengistu left for a state visit to East Germany.

He cut short the four-day trip and returned to Addis Ababa Wednesday, by which time the government had restored calm to the capital after some hours of intermittent small arms fire in central parts of the city and heavy fighting at the old airport, apparently involving tanks.