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Ethiopian military seizes airport in Tigray region

Author: Koang Pal Chang | Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ethiopian troops took an airport in the Tigray region during an offensive against local leaders defying Ethiopian parliament’s authority, state-owned TV said on Tuesday, amid a nearly week-old conflict in the northern region.

The Fana broadcaster reported that the Ethiopian troops have captured Humera town located in the far northwest of the country, near the borders with Sudan and Ethiopia.

“The Ethiopian National Defense Force has fully captured Humera Airport amid the continuation of government’s military response against the TPLF rebel group,” Fana reported, referring to the group that leads the government in the Tigray region.

The government-owned media stated that various Tigrayan forces surrendered during the seizure of Humera airport, near the border with Sudan and Eritrea.

Last week, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has ordered a military offensive, after an army base was taken over by forces loyal to the regional government of Tigray.

Mr. Abiy accused the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of launching the attack.

The attack resulted in “many martyrs, injuries and property damage”, he said in a TV address.

The cabinet has declared a state of emergency in the region for six months, and also shut down electricity, telephone, and internet services in Tigray.

The Ethiopian parliament voted to dissolve the government of the northern Tigray region.

In an emergency session, it declared the Tigray administration illegal and voted to replace it.

The House of Federation – one of Ethiopia’s parliamentary chambers – said the Tigray leadership had “violated the constitution and endangered the constitutional system”, according to the state-owned broadcaster EBC.

It said a new caretaker administration would hold elections and “implement decisions passed on by the federal government.

On Friday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said airstrikes had been carried out on military targets in Tigray.

Abiy also dismissed the army chief, head of intelligence, and foreign minister.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office announced the reshuffle on Twitter – no reason was given for the changes.

Hundreds have been killed in an escalating conflict that some fear could slide into civil war given deep animosity between the Tigrayans and the government of Abiy Ahmed, who comes from the majority Oromo ethnic group.

Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, ordered airstrikes and sent troops into Tigray last week after accusing the TPLF of attacking a military base.

“Our law enforcement operations in Tigray are proceeding as planned: operations will cease as soon as the criminal junta is disarmed, legitimate administration in the region restored, and fugitives apprehended & brought to justice — all of them rapidly coming within reach,” Abiy tweeted on Tuesday.

The leaders of Tigray dominated Ethiopia for many years until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018 on the back of anti-government protests and curbed their influence.

Tigrayans say Abiy’s government oppresses and discriminates against them and behaved autocratically in canceling a national election.

TPLF forces and militia allies number up to 250,000 men and possess significant hardware, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank.

The Addis Ababa-based AU bloc called for peace talks and a ceasefire.

“The chairperson (Moussa Faki Mahamat) appeals for the immediate cessation of hostilities and calls on parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians,” it said in a statement.

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