Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday issued a 72-hour ultimatum to troops in the northern Tigray region to surrender. More units of the government army are currently on their way to Tigray’s capital, Mek’ele, for an offensive. “You have come to a point where you cannot go back. Take this last chance and surrender,” said Ahmed.
The prime minister’s government forces reported taking several important villages in Tigray this week. However, this information is difficult to verify because telephone and internet connections have been down since the conflict began in early November.
Ethiopia’s government army fought in the northern region of Tigray in recent weeks against the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). That party runs the region and has long maintained a tense relationship with the national government, but the conflict escalated when Ahmed accused the TPLF of attacking an army base.
The fighting has reportedly killed hundreds in the last two weeks. Tens of thousands of people have so far fled to neighboring Sudan. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warns that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the country.
A refugee from the Ethiopian Tigray region registers at the border with neighboring Sudan (photo: ANP).
Earlier this week, Ahmed already announced an offensive in Tigray. The Nobel Peace Prize winner warned the more than half a million inhabitants of Mek’ele that his army will encircle and attack the city. “There will be no mercy,” reported one government spokesman.
TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael then informed the news agency Reuters that his army had succeeded in halting the advance of the government army. The TPLF says it is not impressed by the threats from the government in Addis Ababa.
Tigray is a difficult region due to its many mountains. In addition, the TPLF has an estimated 250,000 men at its disposal, many of whom are well-trained paramilitaries.