Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict Rages, Refugees Flee to Sudan

Government sources say hundreds have been killed

The conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region continued on Tuesday, and thousands of Ethiopians, including some soldiers, fled to Sudan to avoid the fighting. Tigray’s local government accused Eritrea of sending troops over the border to support Ethiopia’s campaign in the region, but Eritrea’s government denied the claim.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the military operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last week after he claimed the group attacked a federal army base. Since the fighting started, details have been scant due to the shut down of phone and internet service in Tigray.

Ethiopian’s state-affiliated Fana TV said 550 “extremists” have been killed in the offensive so far, but the numbers are not confirmed. Other government sources said the death toll was somewhere in the hundreds. A refugee agency told The Associated Press that at least 3,500 Ethiopians who fled had arrived in Sudan’s Kassala province.

At least 30 Ethiopian soldiers joined the refugees fleeing to Sudan. The soldiers turned themselves over to Sudan’s military and asked for protection.

Ethiopia’s government said it seized an airport in the town of Humera in Tigray, near the borders of Sudan and Eritrea.

The African Union called for an immediate ceasefire on Tuesday. In response to international concerns, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again tried to downplay the military operation and said it would be over soon.

“Operations will cease as soon as the criminal junta is disarmed, legitimate administration in the region restored, and fugitives apprehended & brought to justice — all of them rapidly coming within reach,” Abiy wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Abiy and the TPLF have been at odds since the prime minister came into office in 2018. Tensions rose in September when the TPLF held elections despite a federal mandate banning them due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused Ethiopia’s parliament to sever ties with the group.

The TPLF has a formidable fighting force with an estimated 250,000 soldiers. The group played a major role in the 1991 overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former Marxist leader of the country who was supported by the Soviet Union. The TPLF controlled most of the government from 1991 until Abiy’s reforms.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.