Ethiopia’s prime minister has warned that “the final and crucial” military operation will launch in the coming days against the government of the country’s rebellious northern Tigray region.
Abiy Ahmed in a social media post on Tuesday said a three-day deadline given to the Tigray region’s leaders and special forces “has expired.”
“The three-day ultimatum given to Tigray Special Forces and the militia to surrender … has ended today,” Ahmed said. “The final critical act of law enforcement will be done in the coming days.”
Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, continues to reject international pleas for dialogue and de-escalation in the two-week conflict in the Horn of Africa that has spilled into neighboring Eritrea and sent more than 25,000 frightened Ethiopian refugees pouring into Sudan.
Ethiopia’s federal government on Tuesday also confirmed carrying out new airstrikes outside the Tigray capital of Mekele, calling them “precision-led and surgical” and denying the Tigray government’s assertion that civilians had been killed.
Tigrayan leaders say Abiy who comes from the largest ethnic group the Oromo, has persecuted and purged them from government and security positions since taking office in 2018.
Tigrayan forces fired rockets into the neighbouring nation of Eritrea this weekend, widening a conflict which has sources say has already killed hundreds of combatants and civilians, and sent 25,000 refugees into Sudan.
Tigray TV showed what appeared to be a residential area damaged by airstrikes, with partly destroyed roofs and craters in the ground. However, communications and transport links with the Tigray region remain almost completely cut off, making it difficult to verify either side’s claims.
Hungry, exhausted and scared, refugees from the Tigray region continue to flow into Sudan with terrifying accounts of war.