The extension of the Italian zone excited the suspicions of John, negus of Abyssinia, whose apprehensions were assiduously fomented by Alula, ras of Tigr, and by French and Greek adventurers.
Measures, apparently successful, were taken to reassure the negus, but shortly afterwards protection inopportunely accorded by Italy to enemies of Ras Alula, induced the Abyssinians to enter upon hostilities.
Angered by this step, Ras Alula took prisoners the members of an Italian exploring party commanded by Count Salimbeni, and held them as hostages for the evacuation of Wa.
On the 25th of January 1887 Ras Alula attacked Saati, but was repulsed with loss.
Alula, on the Gulf of Aden, is the chief town of the Mijertin Somali.
In 1872 Munzinger, now in Egyptian service, annexed Asmara to the khedivial dominions, but in 1884, owing to the rise of the mandi,Egypt evacuated her Abyssinian provinces and Asmara was chosen by Ras Alula, the representative of the negus Johannes (King John), as his headquarters.
Unfortunately famine compelled the garrison of Kassala to capitulate on the 3oth of July of that year, and Osman Digna hurried there from Tamai to raise a force with which to meet the Abyssinian general, Ras Alula, who was preparing for its relief.
On the 23rd of September Ras Alula attacked him there with an equal number of men.
Instead of marching on to Kassala, Ras Alula, who at this time was much offended by the transfer of Massawa by the Egyptians to Italy, made a triumphant entry into Asmara, and absolutely refused to make any further efforts to extricate Egyptian garrisons from the grip of the khalifa.
Although he had set his troops in motion too late to relieve Kassala, Ras Alula, his chief general, had succeeded in inflicting a handsome defeat on Osman Digna at Kufit in September 1885.
In common with other northern princes, Mangasha, reputed son and heir of King John, with the yelloweyed Ras Alula, 3 refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Menelek; but, on the latter marching against them in the following January with a large army, they submitted.
Ras Alula died February 1897, aged about 52.