Nov. 22, 2020, 11:40 a.m.
The office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Saturday that government security forces had captured the town of Adigrat and were advancing towards Mekele, the capital of the northern Tigray region.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said nine people died amid heavy civilian casualties in an assault by federal troops on Adigrat.
The Tigray region has been facing a rebellion since the beginning of the month. On November 4, security forces loyal to the TPLF attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) northern command in Mekele, killing several people.
While the TPLF claimed the strike was carried out in “self-defense”, Abiy said the TPLF had “crossed a red line” and ordered a military offensive.
Hundreds, if not thousands, have died in recent weeks, and more than 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan. The conflict has also spread beyond Tigray, whose forces have fired rockets at the neighboring region of Amhara and Eritrea.
Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) announced that it would send a special envoy to mediate between the government and the TPLF, which is also the region’s ruling political party.
“The main task of the Special Envoys is to engage all parties to the conflict with a view to ending hostilities, creating the conditions for an inclusive national dialogue to resolve all issues that led to the conflict and to restore peace and stability in Ethiopia, ”the AU said on Twitter.
The Ethiopian government, however, denied the visit.
“The news circulating that the envoys will travel to Ethiopia to mediate between the federal government and the criminal element of the TPLF is false,” according to a tweet from Abiy’s office.
Abiy, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize for a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea, said he wanted to remove the TPLF leaders before negotiations.
Abiy also appointed an alternative interim government to rule Tigray.
The TPLF is popular in the Tigray region and dominated national politics until 1991.
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