At least 20 people have been killed in heavy fighting in the Ethiopian Afar region. This was reported by international news agencies on Thursday. More than 50,000 people are said to have been displaced from the fighting between the national government army and rebels from Tigray. Over the weekend, Tigray forces, united in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), announced “limited attacks” on government forces in the neighboring Afar region.
According to regional authorities, this is a much larger offensive than the limited attacks, which also resulted in civilian deaths. According to analysts, the specific attack on Afar is related to the fact that the arterial road between the capital Addis Ababa and the port in neighboring Djibouti runs through this region. The conflict in Ethiopia between the federal government and the TPLF threatens to become a national conflict as most regions in the country have pledged military support to the federal army.
Ethiopia has ten regions with a certain degree of autonomy, which are controlled by the federal government in Addis Ababa. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in that city on Thursday to show support for the army and to demonstrate against the violence perpetrated by the TPLF.
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Onrust in Tigray
The conflict between the Ethiopian government and authorities in Tigray flared up in November last year when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent federal troops into the region to oust the TPLF. Rebels from that region are said to have carried out attacks on army camps. Three weeks later, the regional capital of Mekelle was taken and victory was proclaimed. However, late last month, the TPLF recaptured Mekelle and Ethiopian troops withdrew. A unilateral ceasefire was declared, but fighting is now spreading to other parts of the country.
According to the United Nations, thousands of people have died in the armed conflict in Tigray in recent months and about two million people have been displaced. At least five million residents of Tigray are dependent on emergency aid. The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has been suspended for the time being after a convoy of aid agency vehicles was attacked in Afar this weekend while en route to Tigray.