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.
Dead and wounded alike were horribly mutilated by order of Alula.