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Ethiopia: Abiy vows to continue Tigray offensive

November 5, 2020

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said the government will launch more military attacks on the Tigray region. His announcement comes amid international calls for an end to hostilities.

Ethiopia's Prime Minisert Abiy Ahmed makes a televised national address
Image: Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation//REUTERS

Ethiopia's conflict in the Tigray region continued on Thursday after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (pictured above) told the nation the military will carry out further operations this week.

In an address televised on state media, Abiy claimed an operation launched on Wednesday had been successful.

"The army not only repulsed the attacks but has managed to control important and key locations," he said.

Abiy ordered the offensive in Tigray on Wednesday morning following what he said was an attack by regional Tigray forces on a federal military base.

Read more: Ethiopia nears war in Tigray as Abiy sends in troops

The federal army also released a statement saying it had inflicted "massive" damage against forces from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLG), the party that rules Tigray.

Internet and phone communications in the region remain restricted, making it difficult to verify what is happening in Tigray. 

Location and scale of fighting isn't clear

In his TV address, Abiy did not mention any casualties or where exactly the fighting was taking place.

Fighting so far appears to have been largely concentrated in western Tigray, the AFP news agency reported, citing information from diplomats and aid workers.

However, one eyewitness DW spoke to from the regional capital Mekele corroborated Tigray television reports of at least one government airplane attacking targets near Mekele on Thursday afternoon.

Shelling and shooting had been heard in the region since the early hours of Thursday, according to a humanitarian source who spoke to the Reuters news agency.

The source said nearly two dozen soldiers had been treated at the health center of Abdurafi, near the border with the Amhara region. The source did not say which side of the conflict the injured troops were drawn from.

Ethiopia map showing Tigray region.

Federal government to continue military offensive

Abiy added that further operations were planned in the coming days. Redwan Hussein, spokesman for a newly established State of Emergency Task Force, told Reuters that the option for talks was "not yet" on the table.

Abiy added that further operations were planned in the coming days.

The military operations are part of an attempt by Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, to assert federal control over a region whose ruling party has openly defied him for months.

Read more: Tigray region's defiance puts strains on Ethiopia's unity

Ethiopian lawmakers on Thursday unanimously approved a six-month state of emergency in Tigray. This could lead to a curfew, searches without warrants and transport and communications restrictions, AFP cited a senior government official as saying.

The move against Tigray comes despite international calls for restraint.

Ethiopia's Tigray region votes, defying federal government

Fears violence could further destabilize region

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed alarm over the reported armed clashes in the Tigray region. He has called for immediate measures to deescalate tensions and ensure a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

The United States urged an immediate end to hostilities between the federal and regional forces.

"We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and urge immediate action to restore the peace," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released on Wednesday. "The protection of civilian safety and security is essential."

Observers warn that a civil war in Africa's second most populous country, involving the heavily armed Tigray region, could destabilize the already turbulent Horn of Africa.

"Any increase in violence would foreshadow further regional destabilization and humanitarian disaster," the the Norwegian Refugee Council said in a statement. "We call upon all parties to resolve tensions through dialogue and to take all appropriate measures to end military action."

kh/ng (dpa, Reuters, APF, AP)