ADDIS ABABA (Somaliguardian) – Ethiopia’s federal troops are reported to have captured an airport in the city of Humera in Tigray on Tuesday as regional president accused Eritrea of sending troops over the border.
Following fierce clashes and intense air strikes, the Ethiopian military managed to retake the strategic airport in the northwestern Ethiopia city of Humera close to the border with Sudan.
State-affiliated Fana broadcaster reported on Tuesday that a number of Tigrayan forces surrendered during the seizure of Humera airport, near the border with Sudan and Eritrea, while the military also captured a road leading the from the city to the Sudanese border.
The News Agency posted photos it said showed federal soldiers, bolstered by forces from neighboring Amhara region at the airport.
In a statement on local TV, the leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region Debretsion Gremichael accused Eritrea of sending troops over the border and attacking TPLF forces after the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched major offensive in the region last week.
“Since yesterday, the army of Isaias have crossed the country’s border and invaded,” he said. “They were attacking via Humera using heavy weaponry.”
Mr Gebremichael gave no evidence for his accusation on Eritrean troop incursion, but Eritrea’s government immediately denied that its troops had crossed the border in support of a federal government military offensive against the restive northern state.
In an interview with Reuters Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohamed said “this is an internal conflict. We are not part of the conflict”.
Calls for Ceasefire in Tigray
The African Union called for a ceasefire in Tigray region where a military operation had swung into action last Wednesday in Ethiopian Prime Minister’s bid to dislodge Tigrayan authorities and in his own words, restore law and order.
Ethiopia’s federal government said on Tuesday that peace talks are only possible with Tigray’s local government if military hardware is destroyed, federal officials are released from custody and leaders of the region are arrested.
Spokesman of a newly-established Emergency Task Force for Tigray conflict Redwan Hussein confirmed that federal troops had been forced to retreat over the border to Eritrea before regrouping and returning to fight TPLF forces.
Thousands fleeing conflict in Ethiopia to Sudan
About 2,500 Ethiopian are said to have crossed the border into Sudan over the past two days fleeing the conflict in their home country, an official in Sudan’s eastern Kassala state said on Tuesday.
The number is likely to increase and the official added that the refugees “need shelter and medical treatment and food” while there is a great shortage.
Fears over prolonged conflict
Following Abiy’s order to launch a military offensive against Tigray region, there have been fears raised over possibility that Ethiopia could slide into civil war but the PM reassured the world on Monday that his country was not hurtling into chaos, promising that the offensive would soon be brought to an end after achieving its objective of “ending prevailing impunity”.
Abiy believes he can quell the Tigrayan leadership militarily, knowing that they are a battle-hardened ethnic faction from 1998-2000 war with Eritrea and the defeat of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.
Experts believe TPLF forces and militia allies number up to 250,000 men and possess significant hardware.
Hundreds have so far died in air strikes and fighting as clashes turn vicious amid fears that conflict could hurtle into civil war given the deep animosity between the Tigrayans and Abiy Ahmed, who hails from Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
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