Heavy fighting reported in Ethiopian Tigray region

Posted by News Express | 23 June 2021 | 564 times

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Heavy fighting has broken out in several areas in Ethiopia's northern
region of Tigray between rebels and federal troops, reports say.

The rebel Tigray Defence Force (TDF) said it had seized several towns,
where witnesses have told the BBC they have seen its fighters

The federal Ethiopian army dismissed the claim, saying it was fake news.

This is the most serious fighting since November, when the Ethiopian
government declared victory in the conflict.
Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the war
that started almost eight months ago.
Following the fighting, some five million people in Tigray are in need
of food aid and more than 350,000 are living in famine conditions,
according to a recent UN-backed estimate.
The reports of the fighting comes as ballots are being counted from
Monday's general election. No voting took place in Tigray because of
the security situation.
Rebel spokesman Gebre GebreTsadiq said that the TDF had launched the
attack last week targeting several towns. He said the fighters had
destroyed military vehicles and captured some soldiers
Witnesses have told the BBC that rebel forces have entered the
strategic town of Adigrat, which is just 45 km (30 miles) from the
Eritrean border. If confirmed, this would be the most significant
rebel advance since the war began.
TDF fighters have also been seen in several towns both to the north
and south of the region's capital of Mekelle.

Army spokesman Colonel Getnet confirmed there was fighting but denied
that any towns, army equipment or soldiers had been captured.

"While the Ethiopian government was busy with the national elections
and the GERD [Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] issues, the terrorist
TPLF [a key part of the TDF], along with its young recruits, was
actively involved in terrorist activities," he said.

He added that operations were underway to capture the rebel leaders.
This is the rebels' biggest offensive since the conflict began in
November last year.

They suffered a series of setbacks at the start of the war, but now
seem to have regrouped and are preparing for a long, brutal war.

The timing is instructive, it started just days before the election
which the ruling party is widely expected to win.

The key question is: Will Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed use his electoral
mandate to enter into talks with the rebels or he will press ahead
with seeking victory on the battlefield?

What is not in doubt is the rebels have sent a strong message to the
rest of the world that Ethiopia is at war, despite the government's
narrative that the fighting was almost over.

The reports of the rebel capture of Adigrat, which is within striking
distance of Eritrea, would be significant, suggesting that Eritrean
troops will not be withdrawing from Tigray any time soon despite
growing international pressure.

This war is set to linger for a long time, aggravating Tigray's
already dire food shortages and imminent famine.

Ethiopia's government, aided by troops from neighbouring Eritrea,
launched an offensive in November last year to oust the region's then
ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). By the end
of the month, it declared victory.

The TPLF had had a massive fallout with Mr Abiy over his political
reforms though its capture of federal military bases in Tigray was the
catalyst for the invasion.

The TPLF has since joined forces with other groups in Tigray to form the TDF.

Speaking to the BBC on Monday after casting his vote in the twice
delayed national election, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he was
working with the Eritrean troops to get them to leave but said he
would not "push them out".

They are accused of carrying out massacres, mass rape and blocking
humanitarian aid - charges Eritrea has denied.

He also denied that there was hunger in Tigray. He admitted there was
a problem but said the government could fix it.
Mr Abiy has also ruled out talks with the TPLF, which was labelled a
terrorist organisation by the national government, in May

Source: News Express

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