Tigray forces pushing south


Forces from Ethiopia’s northern region Tigray are pushing south and recaptured a town from government forces, underscoring their determination to keep fighting until pre-war borders are restored.

Conflict erupted in Tigray eight months ago between central government forces and the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Government declared victory three weeks later when it took the regional capital Mekelle, but the TPLF kept fighting.

On June 28, the TPLF recaptured Mekelle and now controls most of Tigray. Some parts in the west and south are claimed by neighbouring Amhara region, which sent fighters to the contested areas.

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters Tigrayan forces controlled Korem, south of Mekelle, and were pushing to seize control of major town Alamata, 20 kilometres further south.

A former resident of Korem now in Addis Ababa told Reuters a fleeing family member reached an area with cell service and confirmed fighting.

Ethiopian military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane did not comment on who was in control of the town saying in a text message “we declared a ceasefire,” referring to a unilateral ceasefire declared by the Ethiopian government after its troops pulled out of Mekelle. The TPLF called the ceasefire ‘a joke’.

Getachew, the TPLF spokesperson, said the group wants pre-war borders restored and transport links open to allow people and humanitarian aid to move.  

The conflict forced nearly two million people to flee their homes and forced around 400 000 people into famine conditions.  

On Monday, the United Nations’ World Food Programme said the first humanitarian convoy to enter the Tigray region in two weeks reached Mekelle. Major roads into Tigray were blocked by government forces and their allies and at least two bridges destroyed.

Tigray’s leaders accuse the central government of blockading the region. Telecoms and banking have been down since the Tigrayan forces seized Mekelle.

Ethiopian authorities deny blocking aid to Tigray and say they are rebuilding infrastructure.