Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

Tigray separatists: we are at war with Ethiopia and Eritrea

Diplomats warn of worsening crisis as missiles are fired into Eritrea

Debretsion Gebremichael, who leads separatist forces in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, confirmed to AP on Sunday that his forces fired rockets at the city of Asmara in Eritrea. The rocket attack was on Saturday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced on November 4 he had ordered military operations in Tigray – a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front.

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in the conflict in Africa's second most populous country, some in a gruesome massacre documented by Amnesty International.

Thousands fled fighting and air strikes in Tigray, crossing to neighbouring Sudan.

The TPLF accuses Mr Abiy's government of enlisting military support from Eritrea, something Ethiopia denies.

Earlier on Saturday, Getachew Reda, a senior TPLF member, threatened retaliatory missile attacks on Asmara and the Eritrean port city of Massawa.

The Tigray leader said “we will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have”. He asserts that about 16 Eritrean divisions are fighting in what he calls a “full-scale war”.

It was not immediately clear how many rockets were fired, where in Tigray they were fired from, whether they hit their targets or what damage they inflicted.

Radio Erena, a diaspora radio station in Paris sympathetic to the Eritrean opposition, cited Asmara residents who reported four explosions.

Tigray has been under a communications power cut since the conflict began, and calls to Asmara were not going through on Saturday.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for about three decades and between 1998 and 2000 fought a border war with Eritrea that left tens of thousands dead.

Mr Abiy came to power in 2018 and won the Nobel Prize the following year, in large part for his effort to initiate a rapprochement with Eritrea.

Threat to Addis Ababa

Mr Gebremichael would not say how many missiles remain at his troops’ disposal but said “we have several. We can use it selectively, anywhere”. When asked about possibly targeting Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, he replied: “I don’t want to tell you, but the missiles are long range as well.”

The Tigray leader said his government had no communications channel with Eritrea, even before the conflict. The two sides are at odds after a long and deadly border war that ended after Ethiopian Mr Abiy took office in 2018.

The TPLF is angry at being marginalised by Mr Abiy’s sweeping political reforms. It also objects to the postponement of national elections until next year, which extends Mr Abiy’s rule. In September it defiantly held a regional election that the federal government called illegal.

Updated: November 15, 2020 02:33 PM

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