Tigray rebel leader says conflict far from over after Ethiopia declares victory
The leader of rebels in Tigray, a restive region in northern Ethiopia which has for weeks been the scene of intense clashes with federal troops, has claimed that the fighting is far from over and that his forces are still resisting the Ethiopian military near the region's capital city, Mekelle.
Debretsion Gebremichael, who presides over the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters on Monday that the Tigray forces had been deployed to the outskirts of Mekelle.
He claimed that Tigray forces combating the federal troops had captured a number of Eritrean soldiers fighting alongside Ethiopian troops.
He also insisted that rumors suggesting he had fled to South Sudan were untrue, according to Reuters.
In a series of messages on Sunday, Gebremichael also claimed Tigray forces had shot down an Ethiopian military plane and captured its pilot.
Gebremichael further added that the town of Axum in the northern region had been retaken from government forces.
Following reports of heavy shelling of Mekelle, Ethiopia's Nobel-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory, saying in a statement on his Twitter account on Saturday that government forces had gained control of the city.
He announced the end of the military operation which had begun with airstrikes n Tigray on November 4.
He said that it was now up to regional forces to capture the "criminal" rebel leaders, restore peace and reconstruct the city.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia's state-run TV said 70 graves, some holding multiple bodies, had been found in the Tigray region town of Humera. It was not clear who were buried in the graves. Both sides accuse one another of the killings.
Government forces in Mekelle said after the end of military operations, "stabilization activities" had begun.
Confirmation of news from both sides is difficult as communication systems are down in Tigray.
In the meantime, Mekelle hospitals, which are reportedly flooded with wounded people, announced that they have a shortage of medical supplies to care for patients and those injured in the conflict.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that some 80 percent of patients at Ayder Referral Hospital have trauma injuries.