ModernGhanalogo

FEATURED: Live Updates: Ghanaians Go To The Polls...

body-container-line-1
23.11.2020 Ethiopia

Tigray leader tells Ethiopian PM his people 'ready to die'

By AFP
Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in nearly three weeks of fighting in Ethiopia.  By EDUARDO SOTERAS (AFP)
LISTEN NOV 23, 2020
Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in nearly three weeks of fighting in Ethiopia. By EDUARDO SOTERAS (AFP)

The leader of Ethiopia's dissident Tigray region said Monday that his people were "ready to die" defending their homeland, rejecting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's ultimatum that they surrender within 72 hours.

Abiy launched a military campaign against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4, accusing it of attacking two federal military camps in the northern region, as well as defying and seeking to destabilise his government.

The federal army says its forces are within 60 kilometres (37 miles) of Mekele, the Tigrayan capital and seat of the TPLF, ahead of a threatened all-out bombardment of the city of half a million people.

Abiy -- last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner -- on Sunday called on the TPLF to surrender peacefully within three days, saying they were "at a point of no return".

TPLF's leader Debretsion Gebremichael: TPLF's leader Debretsion Gebremichael: "We are people of principle and ready to die in defence of our right to administer our region". By MICHAEL TEWELDE (AFP/File)

But the TPLF's leader Debretsion Gebremichael said Abiy was trying to cover for setbacks his army had suffered against Tigrayan forces, and was issuing threats to buy time.

"He doesn't understand who we are. We are people of principle and ready to die in defence of our right to administer our region," Debretsion told AFP via WhatsApp.

A communications blackout in the region has made claims from both sides difficult to verify.

'No mercy' threat

Brigadier General Tesfaye Ayalew, as quoted by state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Monday, said that federal troops were "marching into Mekele" having captured key towns to the north and south.

The government's military campaign against the Tigray People's Liberation Front was launched on November 4.  By EDUARDO SOTERAS (AFP) The government's military campaign against the Tigray People's Liberation Front was launched on November 4. By EDUARDO SOTERAS (AFP)

The army has threatened a "no mercy" tank assault on the TPLF leadership in Mekele, warning civilians to leave while they still can, raising concerns among rights activists.

"Treating a whole city as a military target would not only (be) unlawful, it could also be considered a form of collective punishment," Human Rights Watch researcher Laetitia Bader wrote on Twitter.

Abiy urged the people of Mekele to side with the national army against the TPLF, "in bringing this treasonous group to justice".

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in nearly three weeks of fighting which has seen warplanes bomb the region and tanks enter the fray.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have fled west into Sudan.  By ASHRAF SHAZLY (AFP) Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have fled west into Sudan. By ASHRAF SHAZLY (AFP)

Amnesty International also documented a gruesome massacre in which "scores and likely hundreds" of people were stabbed and hacked to death.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have meanwhile fled west into Sudan and rockets have hit Eritrea to the north, spurring fears the internal conflict risks instability beyond its borders.

Rocket attack

In Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region south of Tigray, two witnesses told AFP on Monday that rockets had hit the city, the third time it has endured shelling since the fighting began.

"Three rockets fell on the city near the airport area. We don't know about casualties or damages," said one witness, who asked not be named.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, pictured winning last year's Nobel Peace Prize, called on the TPLF to surrender within three days.  By Fredrik VARFJELL (AFP/File) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, pictured winning last year's Nobel Peace Prize, called on the TPLF to surrender within three days. By Fredrik VARFJELL (AFP/File)

There was no immediate response from the government, nor any claim of responsibility.

The TPLF claimed responsibility for earlier rocket strikes on Bahir Dar and Gondar, another city in Amhara, as well as Eritrea's capital Asmara.

Abiy, in a statement late Sunday, accused Tigrayan forces of destroying key infrastructure in their retreat from fighting, including the airport in the town of Axum and schools, bridges, medical centres and roads.

Images broadcast by Ethiopian authorities on Monday showed what appeared to be deep gouges and damage to the tarmac at Axum.

Ethiopia's Tigray region.  By  (AFP) Ethiopia's Tigray region. By (AFP)

Abiy has resisted international pressure to halt the fighting and enter into dialogue with the TPLF, describing the campaign as a "law enforcement operation" against a "treasonous group" that is now entering its final phase.

The TPLF led the armed struggle that toppled the brutal Derg regime in 1991 and controlled the coalition that took over, ruling Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Abiy was appointed in 2018.

Since then, Tigrayan leaders have complained of being unfairly targeted in corruption prosecutions, removed from top positions and broadly scapegoated for the country's woes.

Modern Ghana Links
body-container-line