Rockets launched from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region targeted the capital of Eritrea several hours after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared military operations in the region were over.
The Ethiopian government launched a manhunt on Sunday for Tigray rebel leaders after announcing federal troops had taken over the regional capital and military operations were complete. Ahmed’s government has been trying to quell a rebellion by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a powerful ethnically-based party that dominated the central government from 1991 until Abiy came to power in 2018.
He said on Saturday evening federal troops had taken control of the Tigrayan capital Mekelle within hours of launching an offensive there, laying to rest fears of protracted fighting in the city of 500,000 people.
The prime minister, who refers to the three-week-old conflict as an internal law and order matter and has rebuffed international offers of mediation, said federal police will try to arrest TPLF “criminals” and bring them to court.
However, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters in a text message on Saturday evening that TPLF forces would fight on, raising the prospect that the conflict could drag on.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly 44,000 have fled to Sudan since the fighting began on November 4.
The conflict has been another test for Abiy, who took office two years ago and is trying to hold together a patchwork of ethnic groups that make up Ethiopia’s 115 million people.
The flow of refugees and attacks into neighbouring Eritrea have threatened to destabilise the Horn of Africa region.