ADDIS ABABA: Saturday’s Northern Tigray leaders in Ethiopia alleged rocket attacks at two airports in the surrounding area and threatened to hit neighbouring Eritrea, raising tensions that the worsening war might spread across national borders.
The attacks and threats fueled fear that a confrontation promised by Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would be fast and controlled, rather than snowball and destabilising the larger area of the Horn of Africa.
Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient, declared last week that he had directed military operations in Tigray, claiming the move came in reaction to attacks by the provincial ruling group, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), on federal military camps.
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In Africa’s second most populous region, hundreds of people are confirmed to have been killed in the fighting, some in a horrific massacre published by Amnesty International.
Thousands have fled war and air strikes in Tigray, the leaders of which Abiy accuses of attempting to destabilise the nation.
As of Friday evening, according to Sudan’s refugee agency, at least 21,000 Ethiopians had fled over the border into Sudan.
Airport strikes took place on Friday night in two cities in the neighbouring Amhara district of Tigray, Bahir Dar and Gondar.
The federal government admitted that the airport areas have suffered casualties”, while a doctor in Gondar said two soldiers were killed and up to 15 wounded.
We caused heavy damage on the military components of the Gondar and Bahir Dar airports last night,” Getachew Reda, a senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said in a statement on Saturday.
He echoed the TPLF’s allegations that Eritrean soldiers are participating in a war that Ethiopia denies.
Getachew said the TPLF, including its capital, Asmara, would not hesitate to attack locations within Eritrea, the common enemy of Ethiopia.
If they’re leaving Asmara or Bahir Dar to attack Tigray… We are going to take retaliatory steps. In addition to the airports, we will conduct missile attacks on chosen targets,” Getachew added.
“In order to thwart military activities in Massawa and Asmara, we will launch missile attacks,” he said.