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A member of the Amhara Special Forces A member of the Amhara Special Forces  (AFP or licensors)

Ethiopia: Government launches offensive on Mekelle

Ethiopian government forces have reportedly launched an offensive to capture the regional capital Mekelle in the north of the country. Pope Francis has repeatedly appealed to the parties involved to refrain from violence and protect civilians.

By Nathan Morley

Reuters reported that the leader Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said the city was under heavy bombardment.

However, a spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office said that government forces would not bombard civilian areas. Abiy Ahmed had early insisted his government would protect civilians in Tigray.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on both sides to ease tensions and resolve the situation through talks.

Abiy has said the military would bring an end to the fighting in the region and remove its leadership, which his government regards as illegal.

As it stands, the TPLF, which holds control of the northern region, still refuses to surrender its rule.

Over the last few weeks, thousands have died and more than 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan. Reports suggest this conflict is already spilling into Eritrea and destabilising the wider Horn of Africa.

So far, more than 43,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into East Sudan. The UN say spread of COVID-19 is just one concern as makeshift camps.

Mohammed Rafik Nasri, from the U.N. refugee agency said: “We cannot keep social distancing here in the camp. It is really challenging among the several issues in need that are growing because the number is growing.”

Meanwhile, access remains a major constraint in the Tigray region. UNHCR say their staff has no access to the four Eritrean refugee camps due to the security situation. 

Listen to the report by Nathan Morley
28 November 2020, 17:33