Ethiopian Air Force Bombs Military Facilities in Northern Region

Ethiopia’s air force bombed military targets in the restive northern Tigray region, escalating a conflict in Africa’s second-most populous nation that risks turning into a full-blown civil war.

The air strikes targeted arms depots in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and other locations around the city, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on state television Friday. The military acted on information that the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front planned to use rockets against federal forces and its assault on the region will continue, he said.

“The first phase of our operation has been fully completed,” Abiy said. “In some key areas, like Dansha, we have taken control and will as needed advance to other areas.”

Friday marked the third day of clashes between federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF. Abiy ordered the incursion after accusing the region’s government of attacking a federal army camp.

Deteriorating Relations

Relations between Tigray and Abiy’s government have been strained since Abiy took office in 2018 and sidelined the TPLF, once the pre-eminent power broker in Ethiopia. Last month, the federal parliament ordered the Treasury to halt direct budgetary support to the Tigrayan administration for defying an order to postpone regional elections. Tigray’s leaders said the withholding of funding was unconstitutional and tantamount to a declaration of war.

The fighting triggered a selloff of Ethiopian Eurobonds over the past three days. Yields on the nation’s debt due 2024 jumped 98 basis points since Tuesday to 7.25% in London on Friday, the highest since June 15, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Ethiopian Air Force Bombs Military Facilities in Northern Region

The fighting has unnerved Ethiopia’s neighbors. The state of Kassala in neighboring Sudan announced on Thursday it closed its border on concern that clashes in a northern region of the neighboring country may spread. Neighboring Djibouti and Eritrea have also sealed off their boundaries.

There have been few details on the intensity of the clashes so far, after the government shut down communications networks in the region.

Two foreign diplomats briefed on the violence said they have received reports of heavy fighting in three areas that have caused dozens of casualties. The areas include north of the city of Gondor, about 420 kilometers (261 miles) north of the capital, Addis Ababa; the town of Homera; and around a military facility at Dansha, the diplomats said, asking not to be identified as they’re not authorised to speak to the media.

Abiy has so far resisted diplomatic pressure to halt the military offensive. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Thursday called for “immediate action to restore the peace and deescalate tensions.”

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