The northern Ethiopian city of Mekelle came under “heavy bombardment” by Ethiopian forces on Saturday, Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters news agency.
Gebremichael said the Ethiopian government forces had begun an offensive to capture the regional capital.
Ethiopia’s military “has started hitting with heavy weaponry and artillery the center of Mekelle,” the local government said in a statement carried by Tigrayan media.
Two humanitarian officials in the city confirmed these reports, according to AFP news agency.
Reuters cited a diplomat in direct contact with residents as saying that explosions were reported in the north of the city, in the Hamidai area. A second diplomat also said the attack had begun.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said Friday that the central government is committed to the “protection and security of civilians” in the northern Tigray region where federal troops are battling regional forces.
The Tigray region has been facing a rebellion since earlier this month. On November 4, security forces loyal to the TPLF attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in Mekele, killing several people.
While the TPLF claimed the strike was carried out in “self-defense,” Abiy said the TPLF had “crossed a red line” and ordered a military offensive.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, have died in the past weeks, and more than 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan. The conflict has also spread beyond Tigray, whose forces have fired rockets at the neighboring Amhara region and Eritrea.
More to follow…
shs/aw (Reuters, AFP)
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