About 2,500 Ethiopians have escaped across the border to Sudan from fighting in the restive Tigray region, with the exodus likely to swell fast
(The African Stand) — Refugees fled to Sudan on Tuesday and the African Union appealed for a ceasefire in a north Ethiopian region where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is waging a military offensive against local leaders defiant of his authority.
With access blocked to Tigray and communications largely down, it was hard to verify the state of the conflict.
State media said federal forces had captured Humera airport, near the borders with Sudan and Eritrea, along with a road leading from the town. The Ethiopian Press Agency posted photos that it said showed federal soldiers, backed by forces from the neighbouring Amhara region, at the airport.
However, Humera residents were going about their lives normally, according to a communications office of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governs the state of more than 5 million people.
State-affiliated broadcaster FANA said Ethiopia had arrested 17 military officers for disrupting communications systems used by federal forces in Tigray, exposing them to potential harm.
Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, ordered airstrikes and sent troops into Tigray last week after accusing the TPLF of attacking a military base. Tigrayans say Abiy’s government oppresses and discriminates against them and behaved autocratically in postponing a national election.
In a potentially major escalation, Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael said the Eritrean government of President Isaias Afwerki had sent troops across the border to attack local forces in support of the federal push.
But he gave no proof and Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed denied it. “We are not part of the conflict,” he told Reuters.