Rockets hit Eritrea capital day after Ethiopia declares victory

Monday, November 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo/Courtesy

Asmara, Sunday

Rockets launched from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region again hit the capital of Eritrea, diplomats said on Sunday, as the US embassy in Asmara reported “six explosions” in the city.

The blasts – which the embassy said occurred about 10pm Saturday night (19:00 GMT) – came hours after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory in his military campaign against Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The attack marked the third time Asmara has come under fire from Tigray since military operations began there on November 4.

The TPLF justified that attack by accusing Ethiopia of enlisting Eritrean military support for its campaign in Tigray, which Ethiopia denies.

Two Addis Ababa-based diplomats told the AFP news agency that multiple rockets fired Saturday night appeared to have hit Asmara’s airport and military installations, though as with previous attacks it was unclear where they landed and what damage they might have caused.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most secretive countries, and the government has not commented on the rocket fire. The TPLF regards Eritrea, which has warm relations with Abiy, as an archenemy.

Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, declared on Saturday night that military operations in Tigray were “completed” after the army claimed control of the regional capital Mekelle.

The TPLF said it was withdrawing from Mekelle and promised to fight on as long as pro-Abiy forces have any kind of presence in Tigray, and analysts warned it could shift gears to adopt insurgency-style tactics.

Billene Seyoum, the prime minister’s spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera people in Mekelle were being “highly cooperative” on Sunday and federal forces had taken control of key infrastructure in the city, including the airport, government offices, and hospitals.

“Right now the national defence forces and their colleagues are in the process of stabilising the city.

The TPLF is quite notorious for saying a lot of fabricated issues. They could be hiding out in areas within the vicinity of Mekelle. Part of the clearing process is going to be done on the outskirts of Mekelle over the next few days,” Seymoum said.

‘Communications blackout’

Thousands have died in the fighting and tens of thousands of refugees have streamed across the border into Sudan.

Tigray has been under a communications blackout throughout the conflict, making it difficult to assess the full toll of fighting that has included multiple rounds of air raids and at least one mass killing that led to hundreds of civilian deaths.

It was also impossible to independently verify Abiy’s claim that Mekelle, a city of half a million, was fully under federal government control. 

- Agencies

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