Forces from the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia launched an attack in the neighbouring Afar region, marking the expansion of an eight-month-long conflict to a previously unaffected area.
Afar spokesperson Ahmed Koloyta (Ahmed Koloyta) said that Tigray fighters entered Afar on Saturday, and Afar troops and Allied militias were still fighting with them on Monday.
“right now [Ethiopian military forces] On the way, we will work with them to eliminate [the Tigrayan forces],” He says.
Tigray’s spokesperson Getaqiu Rado confirmed that they had been fighting in Afar over the weekend.
“We are not interested in any territorial expansion of Afar, we are more interested in weakening the enemy’s combat capabilities,” he said via satellite phone.
He said that the Tigray army repelled the militias from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, who were sent to fight alongside the troops in the Afar region.
Months of conflict
So far, thousands of people have been killed in the Tigray conflict. Approximately 2 million people were forced to flee their homes, and more than 5 million people depended on emergency food aid.
Ethiopia has a federal system of 10 regions. In the past week, the conflict in Tigray attracted regional troops from all over the country because they were deployed to support the federal army.
In November, fighting broke out between the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the military in the region.
Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it captured the regional capital of Meckler, but the TPLF continued to fight.
At the end of June, after the government withdrew and declared a unilateral ceasefire, TPLF regained most of Mekle and Tigray.
The spread of war to another part of Africa’s second most populous country may put more pressure on Prime Minister Abi Ahmed.
He won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, but because of reports of atrocities committed by the federal army and the army of neighboring Eritrea, which is fighting alongside them, he is facing criticism from the international community on the conflict. His government stated that it is investigating such reports.
As the most powerful force in the multi-ethnic alliance, TPLF ruled Ethiopia for decades until Abiy came to power two years ago.
They said they were forced into conflict after trying to mediate with Abi and to ensure their region’s autonomy under the Constitution failed.
The government designated TPLF as a “terrorist organization” in May.
The TPLF leaders stated that they will continue to fight until they regain control of the disputed territory south and west of Tigray, which was occupied by the government’s allies in the Amhara region during the battle.
On Sunday, Abi said that the Ethiopian army was ready to defeat the Tigray army.
Since the beginning of the conflict, troops in the Amhara region, which has a border dispute with Tigray, have been supporting the army.
On Friday, the other three regions said they were sending troops to support the army.
On Sunday, the Somalia region said it was also sending troops, as did the Benishangur-Gummuz region on Monday.
According to a report by the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, the Gambella and Harari regions also indicated that they are sending troops.
Afar is of great strategic importance because the road and rail linking the capital Addis Ababa and the Djibouti seaport run through it.
Djibouti is the main channel for inland Ethiopia to go to sea.
Last weekend, the head of the TPLF stated that the Tigray army released about 1,000 government soldiers captured in the recent battle.
The ICRC said on Sunday that it had begun visiting soldiers detained in Tigray.
The United Nations World Food Program said on Monday that its convoy of nine trucks was attacked when it was transporting aid to Tigray on Sunday morning.
The agency stated that the convoy was attacked 115 kilometers (70 miles) from the town of Semela in Afar.
The WFP has suspended all convoys from Semera until safety is guaranteed.