Ethiopian military claims control of several Tigray towns

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Ethiopia's military claims it has seized control of several towns in the northern region of Tigray.

The army has been locked in conflict with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) for weeks.

Lieutenant-General Hassan Ibrahim said the army had captured Wikro, north of the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, along with several other towns.

It comes a day after the government said it was beginning the "final phase" of an offensive in the region, reports the BBC.

Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed and thousands have been forced from their homes as Ethiopian forces have seized towns.

Details of the fighting are hard to confirm because all phone, mobile and internet communications with the Tigray region have been cut.

In a meeting on Friday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told African peace envoys that civilians in the region would be protected.

However, there was no mention about potential talks to bring the fighting to an end.

Previously, the prime minister said the military would try not to harm civilians in Mekelle - a city of 500,000 people - and urged residents to stay at home.

The TPLF party, which controls Mekelle, has vowed to keep fighting.

The UN has warned of possible war crimes if the Ethiopian army attacks Mekelle.

The UN has also expressed concerns about the lack of access to the region for humanitarian workers.

The Ethiopian authorities on Thursday said that "a humanitarian access route" overseen by the government will be opened up, adding that they were "committed to work with UN agencies... to protect civilians and those who need it".

More than 40,000 people have fled Ethiopia since the conflict began.

On Thursday, Ethiopian troops were deployed along the Tigray region's border with Sudan, where they prevented people fleeing the violence from leaving the country, according to refugees.

The BBC's Anne Soy, on the Sudanese side of the border, saw at least a dozen members of the Ethiopian military, leading to a marked decrease in the number of people crossing into Sudan.