Nov 20, 2020 18:37 UTC
  • Rebels in Ethiopia's Tigray fire rockets at neighboring state: Report

Rebels in Ethiopia's northernmost region of Tigray have reportedly launched rocket attacks on neighboring Ahmara State, amid growing concerns about the spread of violence in the East African country.

Amhara communications official Gizachew Muluneh said on Friday that the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) had fired three rockets at the regional capital, Bahir Dar, in the early morning.

He said the rockets had missed their targets, with two striking near the airport and a third hitting a maize field.

"My suspicion is they were targeting the Amhara Mass Media Agency, the airport, and a telecommunications tower that is nearby," Gizachew said.

There were no reports of casualties or damage, he added.

Last week, the TPLF also fired rockets at Asmara, the capital of neighboring Eritrea, which it accuses of backing Ethiopian government forces. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia deny the allegation.

The Friday development came a day after Ethiopia said its forces had liberated two towns in the rebel-held Tigray and were further advancing to retake the regional capital, Mekelle.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Abiy ordered the army offensive in Tigray early this month, in response to a deadly attack on an army base that killed at least 54 people from the ethnic Amhara group in the Oromia region.

Abiy accused the TPLF — the region’s ruling party — of having staged the attack.

Tigray's regional president, Debrestion Gebremichael, has accused the federal government of staging the offensive to oust the regional government and assert its own authority.

Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has resisted calls by the United Nations (UN), the African Union, and various countries for talks with the armed rebels in the north.

The conflict has left hundreds dead and forced around 25,000 Ethiopians to flee across the border into Sudan. The crisis also risks destabilizing the wider Horn of Africa region.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the region.

Meanwhile, the UN has announced that it is making plans for as many as 200,000 refugees fleeing into neighboring Sudan, making an urgent appeal for $200 million to assist them.

The Sudan-based representative for the UN children's agency (UNICEF), Abdullah Fadil, also voiced fears about the impact of the arrivals on Sudan, already hosting one million refugees from other African neighbors.