Tigray leader confirms bombing Eritrean capital
Addis Ababa, Sunday
The leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region said on Sunday his forces bombed the airport in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, marking a major escalation in the conflict and raising fears of wider war in the Horn of Africa.
Tigray’s President Debretsion Gebremichael also said his forces have been fighting Eritrean forces “on several fronts” for the past few days. He did not specify where but did say Eritrean forces were deployed and fighting along Ethiopia’s border.
His troops are fighting “16 divisions” of the Eritrean army in addition to Ethiopian soldiers, he said.
“As long as troops are here fighting, we will take any legitimate military target and we will fire,” said Gebremichael, denying reports that Tigray regional forces have entered Eritrea.
When asked about possibly targeting Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, he replied: “I don’t want to tell you, but the missiles are long-range as well.”
Eritrean officials have not responded to requests for comment. No immediate comment came from the Ethiopian government on Debretsion’s claim of the strikes on Eritrea.
Gebremichael’s comments to news media confirmed earlier reports from diplomats of cross-border shelling in the 12-day old conflict in Ethiopia.
The brewing civil war in Ethiopia has the potential to be a devastating conflict for Africa’s second most populous country and the strategic Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in the restive Tigray northern region on November 4. Eritrea’s government has denied involvement in the conflict.
Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace deal two years ago, but President Isaias Afwerki’s government remains hostile to the Tigray leadership after their role in a devastating 1998-2000 war.
A member of his party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), on Saturday threatened to attack Eritrean targets.
Abiy accuses the TPLF, which rules the mountainous region of more than five million people, of treason and terrorism and says his military campaign will restore order. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for a 2018 peace pact with Eritrea.
The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday the fighting in Ethiopia had prompted more than 14,500 people to flee into Sudan so far.
At least three rockets were fired at Asmara on Saturday evening, five diplomats told the Reuters news agency. At least two projectiles hit the city’s airport, three diplomats said.
Radio Erena, a Paris-based diaspora station sympathetic to the Eritrean opposition, said Asmara residents reported hearing “four explosions in total”.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from the city of Gondar in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, said one of the rockets fired at Asmara was aimed at a building housing the Eritrean ministry of information and a number of local media outlets.- AFP