By Our Reporter
TIGRAY, Ethiopia|SHIFTMEDIA| Ethiopian Government says its troops are advancing towards the Tigay capital to flash out the “rebels”.
This comes amidst the backlash of calls from the Humanitarian community including the African Union to ceasefire.
The Tigray conflict has left hundreds dead and thousands homeless and exiled in neighbouring Sudan.
In a statement on Saturday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed praised his army’s advance, saying “our forces have now fully liberated Adigrat town from Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) militia as of today.”
“Together with the rest of Ethiopia, we will work to ensure that all humanitarian needs will be addressed,” Abiy added.
“The overall safety and well-being of the people of Tigray is of paramount importance to the Federal government and we will do all that is necessary to ensure stability prevails in the Tigray region and that our citizens are free from harm and want,” he said.
Abiy said his forces will soon reach Mekelle, capital of Tigray, after taking various surrounding towns. He said Adigrat had also fallen, about 116 km north of Mekelle.
“News circulating that the [African Union] envoys will be travelling to Ethiopia to mediate between the Federal Government and TPLF’s criminal element is fake,” Ethiopia’s government tweeted on Saturday.
TPLF reports civilian deaths
“Our defence forces are currently marching on Mekele,” the Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check, a government agency, said.
The regional capital is the seat of the TPLF, which the government is seeking to dislodge from power.
The agency also said the national army had captured a string of towns in Tigray, including the ancient city of Aksum and Adigrat, 117 kilometres north of Mekele.
In a statement, the TPLF said there had been a “heavy bombardment” of Adigrat, but did not say who was now in control.
TPLF said nine civilians had died among heavy casualties in artillery hits on Adigrat.
The government could not immediately be reached for comment but has previously repeatedly denied targeting civilians.
A communications blackout in the region has made assertions from both sides in the conflict difficult to verify.
Thousands killed or displaced
More than two weeks into its offensive, the government says Tigrayan forces are bulldozing roads and destroyed bridges to hold up the advance on Mekelle, home to about half a million people.
The Tigrayans have promised “hell” for their advancing enemies. They have denied destroying bridges but were not reachable for comment about ploughing up roads.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, have died and more than 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan since the conflict erupted on November 4.
The fighting has spread beyond Tigray, whose forces have fired rockets at the neighbouring Amhara region and the nation of Eritrea, spurring concern of a wider war and the splintering of multi-ethnic Ethiopia.
Assertions on all sides are hard to verify because phone and internet connections have been down since the beginning of the conflict and media are largely barred.
Eritrea denies TPLF allegations it has sent soldiers over the border to back Abiy’s offensive against the Tigrayan forces, who are also an old foe of Eritrea’s.
AU mediation efforts
On Friday, the African Union bloc appointed former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa as special envoys to seek a ceasefire and mediation talks.
But Ethiopia rebuffed the mediation efforts.
“News circulating that the envoys will be travelling to Ethiopia to mediate between the Federal Government and TPLF’s criminal element is fake,” the government tweeted on Saturday.
Abiy accuses the Tigrayan leaders of revolting against central authority and attacking federal troops in the town of Dansha.
The rebels say Abiy’s government has marginalised and persecuted Tigrayans since taking office two years ago.
Abiy denies that, saying he is seeking only to restore law and order and preserve the unity of Ethiopia and its 115 million people.- (Wires)