According to government reports, the Ethiopian army has marched into the capital of the breakaway region of Tigray. “We managed to penetrate Mekele without attacking civilians,” said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday, according to the TV broadcaster EBC. The armed forces had previously launched an offensive on the city of 500,000.
Mekele was hit by “heavy bullets” on Saturday, according to development workers. According to the regional government, the city center was attacked with “heavy weapons and artillery”. The targets also included civilians and infrastructure.
It is difficult to verify the statements of the conflicting parties because the region has been practically cut off from the outside world since the unrest began.
Abiy announced the offensive on Thursday. He had instructed the army to initiate “the third and final phase” in the crackdown on the People’s Liberation Front TPLF, which ruled Tigray.
Several thousand dead
There has been tension in Tigray for months. The TPLF ruling there dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018. The TPLF does not recognize the head of government who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Abiy sent forces to Tigray earlier this month, which completely erupted the conflict with the TPLF. According to estimates by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which specializes in conflicts, several thousand people have been killed in the fighting in Ethiopia so far. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 43,000 people fled to neighboring Sudan. Observers fear that the fighting could widen and destabilize the entire region.