NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Several thousand fighters have died in the besieged Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, a fled local government official said. A month after its inception, it is still very difficult to verify the claims surrounding the conflict between the Ethiopian federal and regional forces.
In an interview with Tigray TV on Thursday, Getachew Reda, a prominent adviser to the Tigray leader, urged youth and others in the region to « rise up and mobilize for battle in the tens of thousands, » after the first Ethiopian minister, Abiy Ahmed, declared his victory over the weekend.
With the Leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (PFLT) on the run through the rugged territory, the fear of a protracted conflict continues. But with communications and transportation almost completely paralyzed in the region of six million people, it is difficult to know the situation on the ground, including the degree of popular support the FPLT has and the death toll.
« Our ability to resist ultimately depends on the support we receive from our people, » Getachew said. « It is possible to have a stage where we stop everything and turn all people into soldiers. »
Without specifying how many combatants were still active, the advisor pointed out that « our army is doing incredible things » with few people and affirmed that there are tens of thousands of deaths among the Ethiopian forces and those of neighboring Eritrea, which the PFLT insists are participating in fighting. Ethiopia denies it.
Getachew also acknowledged the existence of fatalities in the FPLT, but did not provide a figure.
Ethiopian forces announced over the weekend that they had « full control » of Tigray’s capital, Mekele, a city of half a million people. Getachew noted that his side made a « strategic withdrawal » from the city to minimize the destruction.
It was unclear how many people died in the federal offensive on Mekele, but the International Committee of the Red Cross said over the weekend that the city’s main hospital had run out of body bags and that staff suspended other services to focus. in the wounded.
Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein did not immediately respond to questions about the current estimate of casualties in the conflict.