Ethiopia Tigray crisis: Conflict worsens as airports attacked

Forces in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have fired rockets at airports in a neighbouring state, as their conflict with the government grows.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls Tigray, said it had targeted the two sites in Amhara state and warned of further strikes.

Tension between Ethiopia’s government and the TPLF has escalated into military clashes in the past month.

Hundreds have died, with reports of a civilian massacre emerging this week.

Human rights group Amnesty International said it had confirmed that “scores, and likely hundreds, of people were stabbed or hacked to death” in the town of Mai-Kadra (May Cadera) on 9 November.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accused forces loyal to Tigray’s leaders of carrying out the mass killings, while the TPLF has denied involvement.

Mr Abiy ordered a military operation against the TPLF earlier this month after he accused them of attacking a military camp hosting federal troops – claims the TPLF deny. There have since been a number of clashes and air strikes in the region.

The fighting has forced at least 17,000 civilians to cross the border into Sudan, according to the UN.

Getting independently verified information about the situation in Tigray is difficult because phone lines and internet services are down.

Kalkidan Yibeltal, the BBC correspondent in Addis Ababa, says the conflict “is escalating and things are getting worse”.

“In addition to killings, we are also seeing an increase in refugees to neighbouring Sudan and also internally displaced people. Humanitarian agencies are not able to provide assistance because of the fighting and since transport has been interrupted. So we’re seeing more and more dire reports of the human cost of this conflict.”

What do we know about the rocket attack?

The Ethiopian government’s emergency task force said rockets were fired towards the cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar, in Amhara state, late on Friday.

An official told Reuters news agency that one rocket hit the airport in Gondar and partially damaged it, while a second fired simultaneously landed just outside of the airport in Bahir Dar.

Details on casualties were not immediately clear. Both airports are used by military and civilian aircraft.

Forces from Amhara have been fighting alongside their federal counterparts against Tigray fighters.

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The TPLF said the rocket attacks were retaliation for recent air strikes conducted by Mr Abiy’s forces.

“As long as the attacks on the people of Tigray do not stop, the attacks will intensify,” spokesman Getachew Reda said in a Facebook post.

Speaking later on Tigray TV, the spokesman warned of further strikes. He said Asmara in Eritrea could be targeted too, stoking fears of the fighting spreading to the neighbouring country.

Ethiopia’s prime minister has predicted a swift military victory in Tigray, but he may have underestimated his enemy, says the BBC’s African regional editor Will Ross.

Tigrayan troops are experienced and know the mountainous terrain well, he says. There are fears that a drawn-out regional conflict would have horrific consequences for civilians in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa.

Source BBC
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