Ethiopia eyes Tigrayan capital as surrender ultimatum passes

Ethiopia eyes Tigrayan capital as surrender ultimatum passes

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s prime minister warned on Tuesday that a deadline for rebel northern forces to lay down arms had expired, paving the way for an advance on the Tigray region’s capital in a two-week conflict shaking the Horn of Africa.

FILE PHOTO: Members of Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) prepare to head to mission, in Sanja, Amhara region near a border with Tigray, Ethiopia November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

“The three-day ultimatum given to Tigray Special Forces and the militia to surrender … has ended today,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Facebook. “The final critical act of law enforcement will be done in the coming days.”

Africa’s youngest leader and the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy launched air strikes and a ground offensive on Nov. 4 after accusing the local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of armed revolt.

Tigrayan leaders say Abiy, 44, who comes from the largest ethnic group the Oromo, has persecuted and purged them from government and security positions since taking office in 2018.

Tigrayan forces fired rockets into the neighbouring nation of Eritrea this weekend, widening a conflict which has already killed hundreds – one diplomatic source said thousands – of combatants and civilians, and sent about 30,000 refugees into Sudan.

The United Nations said a “full-scale humanitarian crisis” was unfolding.

With communications largely down and media barred, Reuters could not independently verify assertions by either side nor the situation on the ground.

Abiy’s warning came after his forces struck unspecified TPLF targets outside the Tigray capital Mekelle in “precision-led and surgical air operations”, a government statement said.

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