Tigray leader promises to keep fighting as government continues to advance

2020-11-18 18:23:27
Tigray leader promises to keep fighting as government continues to advance

Ethiopia's armed forces have captured two towns in the northern part of Tigray where soldiers loyal to the local political party are still fighting the central government.

Tigray's leader confirmed the losses yet also said it was a temporary setback and promised to defeat the government.

Ethiopia's prime minister has stated that his army is advancing on the Tigrayan capital Mekelle.

Hundreds of people have reportedly died in two weeks of clashes.

Verifying information from Tigray is somewhat difficult because of a blackout on most communications.

The conflict is deeply rooted in tension between powerful regional party the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopia's central government.

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed put off a national election because of coronavirus in June, tension escalated between the two sides. The TPLF sees the central government as illegitimate, saying that Mr Abiy no longer has a mandate to lead the country.

The government accused the TPLF of attacking a military location to steal weapons, which the TPLF strongly denied. In response, Mr Abiy decided to order a military offensive, accusing the TPLF of treason.

Government forces have now seized the towns of Shire and Axum after a three-day deadline given by Prime Minister Abiy to Tigray's forces to surrender expired this past Tuesday.

Debretsion Gebremichael, TPLF leader, confirmed to a local TV station on Wednesday that his soldiers had lost control of the two towns in the south and west of Tigray, yet stated that it was temporary and vowed to defeat Mr Abiy's forces.

"Let us mobilise our entire capacity," he noted, calling for all Tigrayans including children to join the "struggle".

"Tigray is now a hell to its enemies. The people of Tigray will never kneel," the TPLF announced in a statement.

Ethiopian officials accused the TPLF of damaging four bridges near the Tigray capital Mekelle. However, the group denied the claims.

The prime minister suggested on Tuesday that the war was coming to an end, adding that "the final critical act of law enforcement will be done in the coming days".

Nearly 27,000 people have fled over the northern border to Sudan as the UN warned a "full-scale humanitarian crisis" was taking place.

TPLF adviser Fesseha Tessema, a former Ethiopian diplomat, announced that civilian sites in Mekelle were being bombed by federal forces.

"[The people of Tigray] haven't done anything wrong, they are in their own homes, churches," Mr Fesseha said.

The federal government has denied bombing civilians and said that air attacks are solely aimed at the Tigrayan military.

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