ADDIS ABABA (Somaliguardian) – Ethiopia’s military plans to encircle the rebel-held capital of Tigray region with tanks and may use artillery on the city of Mekelle in a push to end a nearly three-week long offensive, a military spokesman said on Sunday.
Tigray regional authorities, who still refuse to surrender their rule of the northern Ethiopia region, said local troops were digging trenches and standing firm to resist oncoming offensive on Mekelle as the country’s military urges civilians to save themselves.
“The next stages are decisive part of the operation, which is to surround Mekelle using tanks,” military spokesman Colonel Dejene Tsegaye told Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation.
“We want to convey a message to the people in Mekelle to save yourselves from any artillery attacks and free yourselves from the junta… after that, there will be no mercy.”
Meanwhile, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael speaking to Reuters News Agency via text message said his forces were resisting an offensive from south of Mekelle while at the same time fighting near the northern town of Adigrat after it had reportedly fallen to federal troops.
Mr Gebremichael stressed that the federal troops’ plan to encircle Mekelle have come “to no avail on south front and that “they could not move an inch for more than one week”.
Ethiopian federal troops have taken a string of towns during aerial bombardments and fierce ground clashes, and are pushing towards Mekelle, a highland city of about 500,000 people where the TPLF rebels are based.
The war in the restive northern Ethiopian region has killed hundreds and displaced more than 30,000 refugees into neighboring Sudan, and seen rockets fired by Tigray rebels into the country’s Amhara region and across the border into Eritrea.
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