Ethiopian leader announces “final” offensive against rebel region

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Ethiopia’s prime minister announced Tuesday that he would launch the “final and crucial” military operation against the government of the rebel region of Tigray in the north of the country in the coming days.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on social media that the three-day period he had given to the region’s leaders and special forces “has expired today.”

Abiy, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, continues to reject international requests for dialogue and de-escalation of the conflict, which began two weeks ago and which has spread to neighboring Eritrea, in addition to terrorizing more than 25,000 Ethiopians who fled as refugees to Sudan.

The country’s alarmed neighbors, such as Uganda and Kenya, have called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. But the Abiy government considers the Tigray regional government illegitimate, after it defied federal authorities by holding local elections in September.

The government of Tigray opposes the postponement of the national elections until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and considers the federal government of Abiy illegal, stating that its mandate has expired.

The federal government also confirmed on Monday that it had carried out new “precise and surgical” airstrikes outside the capital of Tigray, Mekele, denying the regional government’s allegations that there were civilian casualties.

Communications and transportation with Tigray were still almost completely cut off, making it very difficult to verify the claims of both sides.