NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister says “the final and crucial” military operation will launch in the coming days against the government of the country’s rebellious northern Tigray region.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a social media post on Tuesday said a three-day deadline given to the Tigray region’s leaders and special forces “has expired today.”
Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, continues to reject international pleas for dialogue and de-escalation in the two-week conflict in the Horn of Africa that has spilled into neighboring Eritrea and sent more than 25,000 frightened Ethiopian refugees pouring into Sudan.
Alarmed African neighbors including Uganda and Kenya are calling for a peaceful resolution, but Abiy’s government regards the Tigray regional government as illegal after it defiantly held a local election in September. The Tigray regional government objects to the postponement of national elections until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and considers Abiy’s federal government illegal, saying its mandate has expired.
Ethiopia’s federal government on Tuesday also confirmed carrying out new airstrikes outside the Tigray capital of Mekele, calling them “precision-led and surgical” and denying the Tigray government’s assertion that civilians had been killed.
Communications and transport links with the Tigray region remain almost completely cut off, making it difficult to verify either side’s claims.