Ethiopian, Eritrean forces clash with Tigrayan forces in the north

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  • Ethiopian, Eritrean forces launch attack -Tigray military
  • Northern town of Adybayo attacked -Tigrayan military statement
  • Ethiopian govt says Tigrayan forces intensify attacks
  • Conflict has destabilized Africa’s second most populous nation

NAIROBI, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces launched an attack in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray on Thursday, targeting Tigrayan forces, a Tigrayan military spokesperson said, as a government statement blamed the Tigrayans for renewed fighting.

Reuters was not able to independently verify statements by either side.

The Tigrayan military command said the northern town of Adybayo had been attacked from four directions.

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“The enemy, having already relocated a massive force to Eritrea, has now begun a joint campaign with the foreign invading force of Eritrea,” it added in a statement.

Fighting was also continuing on the southern front, it said.

The statement came after its spokesperson, Getachew Reda, said on Twitter that the two forces had launched a “massive four-pronged offensive early this morning” in the Adybayo area.

The Ethiopian government said attacks by Tigrayan forces had intensified, leading to the deaths and displacement of civilians and property destruction. It is also charged with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of diverting food aid meant for hungry Tigrayans.

The government statement did not directly address claims about an attack by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in northwestern Tigray.

Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a Reuters query on the number of civilians killed or displaced by conflict.

Military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane and the prime minister’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Both sides blame each other for breaking a ceasefire.

The conflict in Ethiopia has roiled the region and destabilized Africa’s second most populous country, a diplomatic heavyweight that hosts the African Union and provides peacekeepers to several of its fragile neighbours.

Reuters was not able to independently confirm Getachew’s report or ascertain who started the fighting because Tigray has not had telephone links since government troops pulled out more than a year ago.

A humanitarian worker in the Tigrayan town of Shire told Reuters that drivers coming from the area reported cross-border shelling on Wednesday.

He said he had spoken to a witness who said heavy artillery shelling in the town of Shiraro near the Eritrean border had started at around 4:30 am on Thursday.

The militia leader in the Amhara city of Gondar with contacts on the front lines of the fighting confirmed there had been “heavy shelling from our side” aimed at Tigrayan trenches around the town of Shiraro, in the same area.

The Ethiopian military had clashed with the Tigrayan forces on Wednesday, he said, and wounded side fighters from the government were being treated in Humera. The hospital had been given orders to clear out civilian patients, he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Ethiopian government and the TPLF late on Wednesday to “immediately halt military operations” and work on ending the conflict.

Eritrea sent troops into Tigray to support the Ethiopian military immediately after fighting broke out in November 2020, although both countries publicly denied their presence for about five months the accusations mounted of gang-rapes, mass killings of civilians and systemic looting.

The Eritreans denied the accusations.

In mid-2021, Eritrean and Ethiopian troops withdrew from most of Tigray after increasingly bloody battles in which Tigrayan forces took ground.

In January, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told state media his troops would intervene again should Tigrayan forces attack his country or threaten Ethiopia’s stability.

The government declared a ceasefire in March, but in May, Eritrean forces fired at least 23 shells at Shiraro, killing a 14-year-old girl and wounding 18 people, a UN bulletin said. Eritrea did not respond to requests for comment at the time.

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Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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