Reuters /Addis Ababa
Bombing, looting and skirmishes persisted in parts of Ethiopia’s Tigray yesterday, a rebellious force in the northern region said after government troops declared they were within days of capturing the group’s leaders.
A month of fighting between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is believed to have killed thousands of people and driven some 46,000 refugees into neighbouring Sudan. Abiy’s government has said the conflict is winding down a week after it seized Tigray’s regional capital, Mekelle, but TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters in a text message yesterday there was still fighting outside the city.
He said federal forces bombed the town of Abbi Adi on Friday, without giving further details, while a TPLF spokesman accused government troops of looting in Mekelle.
“(They are) looting civilian properties, hotels and damaging factories after looting,” the spokesman Getachew Reda told a TPLF-owned TV station. The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Most communications in Tigray are down and access to the area is severely restricted, making it hard to verify either side’s statements. Abiy used to be a political partner of the TPLF — which dominated Ethiopia’s governing coalition for nearly three decades — but he irked his former allies by putting Tigrayan officials on trial for corruption and rights abuses. They said the arrests were politically motivated, accusing Abiy of trying to tighten his grip over Ethiopia’s 10 semi-autonomous federal states.
Abiy denies that, and has called the TPLF leaders criminals who mutinied against federal authority. Army Colonel Shambel Beyene said late on Friday that government forces were 10km away from a forest in the Gore area where Debretsion, Getachew and other TPLF members were thought to be hiding.
“We will only need a few days to get to them,” he said on state television. Relief agencies, meanwhile, are worried about a lack of food, fuel, medicines and even body bags in Tigray.
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