Ethiopia’s prime minister said Tuesday that a “final and crucial” military push in the rebellious region of Tigray will take place in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest leader and the recipient of a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, launched a military offensive against the Tigray regional government last week after regional forces attacked an army base in the region.
“The final critical act of law enforcement will be done in the coming days,” Abiy said in a social media post Tuesday, announcing that his troops were marching on the capital of the Tigray region.
The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that already, more than 25,000 Ethiopians, mostly women and children, have fled the violence in the country’s Tigray region for Sudan.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, telephone and internet services remained cut off in the region.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday condemned violence by the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the central Ethiopian government.
“We strongly urge the TPLF and the Ethiopian authorities to take immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict, restore peace, and protect civilians,” Pompeo said in a statement. He urged that communication services be restored in the region.
Jens Hasemann, emergency response coordinator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), described the situation as very bad. Hasemann said the UNHCR, the World Food Program, Sudan Red Cross, Muslim Aid and other agencies are providing aid, but more needs to be done.
Abiy’s government on Monday again shunned international pleas to open talks to end the conflict, while neighboring Uganda and Kenya made similar pleas for both sides to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Although military clashes, including aerial bombardments, have received the most media attention, there are reports of attacks directed against civilians.
In Mai-Kadra, Ethiopia, Amnesty International said it documented a mass killing of hundreds of civilians by attackers wielding knives, axes and machetes. Amnesty International said those killed were not involved in the military operations.
Tensions have been building in the region since September 9, when Tigray, the northernmost of Ethiopia’s nine regional states, defiantly held a regional election after Abiy postponed the polls, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.