On Thursday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the military will begin its “final phase” of the offensive in the northern Tigray region. Abiy’s statement came after a 72-hour deadline for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender expired.
“The 72-hour period granted to the criminal TPLF clique to surrender peacefully is now over and our law enforcement campaign has reached its final stage,” Abiy said. The prime minister said he ordered the army to move on the Tigrayan capital Mekelle and warned its residents to “stay indoors.”
Since Abiy ordered the operation in Tigray on November 4th, he has been promising it will come to a quick end. But the TPLF is a formidable fighting force, with an estimated 250,000 soldiers, and the group is refuting the claim that the federal government is closing in on Mekelle.
With phone and internet services shut down in Tigray, media outlets are unable to confirm what is happening on the ground. Thousands are estimated to have been killed, and about 40,000 refugees fled to neighboring Sudan. On Wednesday, an Ethiopian news agency said that 10,000 TPLF soldiers had been “destroyed” in the fighting, but the number is unverified.