Fighting between Ethiopia’s federal government and the local government of the northern Tigray region continues. On Thursday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed his military made significant gains in western Tigray.
“The western region of Tigray has been liberated,” Abiy wrote on Twitter. “The army is now providing humanitarian assistance and services. It is also feeding the people.”
Since Abiy ordered a military operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), government airstrikes ad skirmishes on the ground are believed to have killed hundreds. But numbers have not been confirmed due in part to the shutdown of phone and internet service. Thousands of refugees have fled to Sudan to avoid the fighting.
The rights group Amnesty International claimed that possibly hundreds of people were stabbed and hacked to death in a town in southwest Tigray on November 9th. According to Amnesty, witnesses blamed the massacre on forces loyal to the TPLF, but the group could not verify who was responsible. Media outlets could also not confirm the numbers or identify the perpetrators.
The TPLF declared a state of emergency on Thursday and accused the Ethiopian government of “mercilessly” bombing the region. Earlier this week, Ethiopia’s military confirmed it was launching airstrikes on Tigray. An Ethiopian official said the air force was “pounding targets with precision.”
Tensions between the TPLF and Abiy have been high since September when Tigray held local elections despite a federal mandate banning them due to coronavirus. The elections caused Ethiopia’s parliament to severe ties with the TPLF. The TPLF controlled much of the government until Abiy took office in 2018, and his reforms opened it up to other ethnic groups in the country.