Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces airstrikes in country’s Tigray region

Ethiopia’s air force has bombed arms depots and destroyed military hardware in the country’s well-armed Tigray region, the Prime Minister says, escalating a war he launched this week against his former ruling coalition allies.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Friday evening (local time) that strikes in multiple locations “completely destroyed rockets and other heavy weapons” belonging to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and made a retaliatory attack impossible.

The announcement marked another escalation in clashes this week that experts say could slide one of Africa’s most powerful and populous countries into civil war.

Hours earlier, Mr Abiy — who won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his sweeping political reforms — justified his decision to start military action in Tigray by saying it was necessary to disarm the TPLF.

The campaign had “clear, limited and achievable objectives”, he said.

The TPLF was Ethiopia’s dominant political force for decades until Mr Abiy took office in 2018.

Mr Abiy has called retired generals back to duty in hopes of preventing the military from fragmenting along ethnic lines, a diplomat and a regional security expert said.

The military operations seek “to restore the rule of law and the constitutional order, and to safeguard the rights of Ethiopians to lead a peaceful life wherever they are in the country,” Mr Abiy said.

TPLF officials were not immediately available for comment. The Government cut phone and internet communications in the region on Wednesday.

The operation will continue, Mr Abiy said, “until the junta is made accountable by law”.

He warned the Tigray population: “In order to avoid unexpected peril, I advise that you limit group movements in cities.”

Experts say civil war would be catastrophic and destabilising for the Horn of Africa.

Aid groups warn a humanitarian disaster is in the making if fighting continues, with the COVID-19 pandemic one of several crises.


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