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Amhara milita fighters
Image: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Rockets strike Ethiopian regional capital

November 20, 2020

For the second time in a week, rockets fired by Tigray rebels have hit the city of Bahir Dar in the Amhara region. A brutal conflict erupted two weeks ago over the legitimacy of the Addis Ababa government in the north.


Rebel forces from Ethiopia's northern Tigray region on Friday fired rockets on the capital of neighboring Amhara, a local official said, heightening fears the internal conflict could spread to other parts of the country.

"The illegal TPLF group have launched a rocket attack around 1:40 a.m. [22:40 Thursday UTC/GMT] in Bahir Dar," Amhara regional government's communications office said on its Facebook page, referring to the Tigray People's Liberation Front.

Regional official Gizachew Muluneh told AFP that three rockets were fired but none resulted in casualties or damage.  He added that two of the rockets struck near the airport while the third hit a maize field.

The TPLF also carried out rocket attacks last weekend on airports in the Amhara region, as well as the capital of neighboring Eritrea.

Tigray forces retaliate

It said those strikes were in retaliation for Eritrea and Amhara allegedly sending their own troops to fight alongside Ethiopian national forces in the Tigray conflict, which erupted on November 4.

Read more: Ethiopia: A timeline of the Tigray crisis

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered military operations in the northern region in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with TPLF, which has rejected his authority to govern.

Hundreds of fighters and civilians are reported to have been killed, some in a gruesome massacre documented by Amnesty International. 

Thousands of others have fled the fighting and airstrikes, crossing to neighboring Sudan.

Closing in on Tigray capital

On Thursday, the Ethiopian government said it was making a final push to Mekele, the Tigray capital, where rebel forces accused federal troops of bombing a university.

The conflict has called into question whether Abiy — Africa's youngest leader and last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner — can hold his ethnically divided nation together, ahead of national elections next year.

The TPLF effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the strongest force in a multi-ethnic coalition, until Abiy took power two years ago.

The Tigrayans accused the prime minister of marginalizing them, as many officials from the old regime were put on trial for crimes like murder or corruption.

Read more: Ethiopian army chief accuses WHO's Tedros of backing Tigray

Democratic progress threatened

Ethiopia is a federation of 10 states run by separate ethnic groups, many of whom have used the new freedoms that came under Abiy to jostle with the federal government and each other for more power, money or land.

The fighting in Africa's second-most populous country also threatens to suck in or destabilize Ethiopia's neighbors, which include Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.

The UN children's agency UNESCO on Friday warned that the conflict has left some 2.3 million children in urgent need of assistance and thousands more at risk in refugee camps.

The agency estimates that some 12,000 children — some of them without parents or relatives — are among those sheltering in camps and registration centers.

mm/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)  

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