The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Ahmad Abiy, has announced via a tweet that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have taken control of Mekelle, capital of the Ethiopian northernmost region – the Tigray region which is home of the Tigray’s People Liberation Front (TPLF), Vox reports.
According to the many eyewitnesses who have had to flee for their lives, the city witnessed hours of shelling on Saturday from the ENDF acting under Abiy’s orders.
Saturday marked the end of the 72 hours ultimatum that the PM gave troops of TPLF to surrender or face military violence. Abiy also stated in his tweets that thousands of military officers who the Tigrayan rebels were holding hostage have been released and the ENDF has also taken control of the airport, regional administrative offices, and other public offices that in Mekelle that were under the control of the Tigrayan forces.
Abiy who has been accused of targeting innocent civilians including children in his airstrikes and ground fighting campaign appreciated the efforts of the people of the region and asked for more cooperation in the rebuilding projects that will return the city and the whole of the Tigray region to the old days, CNN writes.
The fierce fight which has displaced thousands and possibly killed hundreds of civilians according to reports started early in the morning on Saturday. The leader of the TPLF troops, Debretsion Gebremichael told reporters via text message on Saturday that they were being heavily bombarded by the national military which had earlier stated that it would be”merciless” in dealing with the Tigray troops.
Billene Seyoum, one of Abiy’s spokespersons tweeted that the “victim/hero narrative” being employed to describe the Tigrayan troops is quite unjust “for millions of Ethiopians.” More communication from the two warring sides has been impossible as a result of the blackout in the region.
International Organizations and world leaders who earlier counseled Abiy to tread with caution in dealing with the situation have expressed misgivings about the violence which did not spare civilians and the disturbance of humanitarian efforts in the region. According to UNICEF about 500,000 civilians, 250,000 children included live in Mekelle. Many of these people have since Saturday been trying to flee from all the violence.
The Abiy-led Ethiopian government has however explained that no civilians were affected during the attack. Representatives of the government appreciated the concerns of the global organizations in various tweets on Saturday.
The violence in the country started on November 4 and since then with threats from Abiy to crack down mercilessly on the region, over 40,000 Ethiopians from the region have fled into Sudan, a neighboring African country. According to the International Red Cross, the hospitals in the Tigray region have emergency medical supplies needs but ambulances belonging to the Ethiopian branch of the organization have been attacked since the fighting began.
“I am pleading with the Ethiopian government to do all they can to protect civilians, ensure that human rights are not violated, and allow humanitarian efforts access to the refugee camps in the war-torn region,” Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.