Ethiopia ‘destroys Tigray rebels’ coming from Sudan
Ethiopia’s military says it has “destroyed” a group of about 320 rebels trying to enter the conflict-hit northern region of Tigray from neighbouring Sudan.
“Some of them died of thirst on the road, some were captured, and those who refused to surrender were destroyed by the army,” Brig Gen Tesfaye Ayalew said in a briefing broadcast on state-owned TV.
The conflict in Tigray is in its seventh month – it erupted when Ethiopia’s government launched an offensive to oust the region’s then ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The party had had a massive fallout with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over political changes to the country’s ethnically based federal system – though the TPLF’s capture of federal military bases in Tigray was the catalyst for the invasion.
Mr Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, declared that the conflict was over at the end of November, but fighting has continued.
Thousands of people have been killed and around 1.7 million have fled their homes, tens of thousands of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring Sudan.
According to Brigadier General Tesfaye, the fighters, who tried to enter Ethiopia via the Tigrayan town of Humera, had been making a bid to reach their party leaders.
Weapons, satellite telephones, radios and medicine were captured, which were intended for them, he said.
He also alleged the rebels carried a secret document detailing a military deal reached with some generals in Sudan, which has previously denied accusations that it is helping forces in Tigray.
Sudan’s government has not commented on these recent allegations.
Tigray was plunged into conflict in November last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated the country’s politics for decades.
While he promised a brief military campaign, fighting continues with no end in sight, with evidence of massacres, brutal sexual violence and fears of humanitarian catastrophe.
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into neighboring Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone, and the construction of a massive hydro-electric project on the Blue Nile.
Tesfaye, referring to the force as the “junta,” which is how the Ethiopian government refers to the TPLF, said it was led by “US based former Ethiopia defense forces officers who turned traitors and another group based in Khartoum.”
He alleged a military agreement “reveals the junta has been working secretly together with a few Sudanese leaders and army officers as well as Ethiopia’s enemies.”
He described the destruction of the force, details of which could not be independently confirmed by AFP, as “a big victory, for our army and our country.”
AFP has reached out to the Sudanese government, which was not immediately available for comment.
Khartoum has previously denied accusations it is helping forces in Tigray.
Executed Ethiopian teenager ‘not a rebel’ – father
The father of a 17-year-old boy executed in the Ethiopian region of Oromia by the security forces has told the BBC his son was not a rebel.
Amanuel Wondimu was paraded through Dembi Dollo city in the western Oromia region on Tuesday.
The authorities said he was a member of the killing squad of the banned Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which was recently designated as a terror group.
A video of the incident showed the teenager walking through the city’s main road accompanied by dozens of officers, forced to say “I am ‘Abba Torbe’ [the Killing Squad] – take a lesson from me.”
His father, Wendimu Kebede, says he learnt about the killing when security forces came to his home – and he went to find his son’s body.
“As the mother of the boy was screaming, the security forces beat us so we went home without taking the body. We had seen him down on the ground with his hands tied together,” he told the BBC.
He said his son was religious – a deacon in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – and had no association with the OLA.
Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said it is “alarmed” by the public execution.
US concern over Ethiopia’s growing ‘polarisation’
The United States is deeply concerned about increasing political and ethnic polarization throughout Ethiopia, the U.S. State Department said on Friday, adding that Washington will work with allies to secure a ceasefire in the Tigray region, provide assistance and hold human rights abusers accountable.
Newly appointed U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman returned from his first trip to the region on Thursday, where he visited Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands more forced from their homes in the Tigray region since November, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched attacks on Ethiopian forces. Ethiopian troops and soldiers from neighboring Eritrea have been accused of massacres and killings in their fight against the rebel group.
Ethiopia says it is committed to investigating human rights violations and both countries have promised a withdrawal of Eritrean troops.
“The atrocities being perpetrated in Tigray and the scale of the humanitarian emergency are unacceptable,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that Feltman underscored to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki the imperative that Eritrean troops withdraw from Ethiopia immediately.
“The crisis in Tigray is also symptomatic of a broader set of national challenges that have imperiled meaningful reforms,” the statement said.
The office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The government’s efforts to crush the TPLF rebellion have unleashed an ethnic witch hunt across the country, according to a Reuters investigation this month, which found Tigrayans have been arrested, harassed, sacked or suspended from their jobs, or had their bank accounts temporarily frozen.
Feltman discussed with Abiy and other Ethiopian leaders the need for “an inclusive effort to build national consensus on the country’s future that is based on respect for the human and political rights of all Ethiopians,” the State Department said.