Ethiopian Forces Take Control of Capital of Tigray Region

Ethiopian forces have taken “full control“ of Mekelle, the capital of the restive Tigray region, ending a three-week military conflict.

The military has gained control of the airport, public institutions, and regional administrative offices, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement. The armed forces also secured the Northern Command military camp, releasing thousands of Ethiopian soldiers held captive by the military force loyal to the Tigrayan ruling party.

“The main operation is successfully concluded,” Abiy said on Twitter. “We now have ahead of us the critical task of rebuilding what has been destroyed; repairing what is damaged; returning those who have fled, with utmost priority of returning normalcy to the people of the Tigray region.”

The army began an incursion into Tigray on Nov. 4, after Abiy accused the TPLF of attacking the Northern Command base to steal weapons. The TPLF, once the predominant power in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, has been progressively sidelined since Abiy took office in 2018.

Abiy on Thursday ordered his troops to attack Mekelle after a deadline for the regional forces to surrender had expired and heavy artillery pounded the city on Saturday. The whereabouts of the TPLF leadership remained unclear. Federal police will now continue their task of apprehending TPLF leaders, Abiy said.

“Abiy will not be able to arrest TPLF’s members,” TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said by text message earlier on Saturday. “They will die with their belief. Give in? You have to understand we’ll continue fighting as long as they are in our land.”

Ethiopian Forces Take Control of Capital of Tigray Region

The hostilities have triggered a humanitarian crisis across Tigray, with tens of thousands of people displaced and food, cash and fuel shortages now widespread, and the government is facing mounting international pressure to de-escalate the conflict. There are no accurate figures of the number of people who’ve died in the fighting. The violence also spilled beyond Ethiopia’s borders.

Tigray forces sent several rockets toward Asmara, the capital of the neighboring Eritrea, late on Friday, three foreign diplomats with knowledge of the attack said. The U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said in a statement on its website that “a loud noise, possibly an explosion, was heard in Asmara, likely emanating from outside the city” at 8:24 p.m. local time.

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