Ethiopia Sends Soldiers After Rebel Group After Attack On Army Base

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has ordered military operation against a rebel group in the northern state of Tigray in response to an attack on a government army base earlier in the day.

In a live televised statement on Wednesday, Ahmed said the military retaliation was ordered in Tigray for the attack by “traitorous forces’’ on the Ethiopian Defense Forces personnel stationed in the region.

Ahmed was referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in the Tigray region and now a rebel movement.

In recent weeks, there have been rising tensions between Ahmed’s Prosperity Party and the TPLF, with each side accusing the other of trying to destabilise the country.

Temesgen Tiruneh, president of Amhara state, Ethiopia’s second largest region that borders Tigray, told reporters that regional security forces have foiled an attack perpetrated by the TPLF across Amhara.

Tiruneh said the Amhara regional security forces are working with the Ethiopian Defense Forces in response to the TPLF attacks.

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In September, Tigray held regional elections in defiance of the federal government, which called the vote “illegal”. The row has escalated in recent days with both sides accusing each other of plotting a military conflict.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attempted to steal artillery and other equipment from federal forces stationed there, Abiy’s office said in a statement.

“The last red line has been crossed with this morning’s attacks and the federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation,” the statement said.

The Ethiopian National Defence Forces have been ordered to carry out “their mission to save the country and the region from spiralling into instability”, it added said.

Tigray’s local government said that the Northern Command of the federal military, which is stationed in the region, had defected to its side. Billene dismissed the claim as “false information”.

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Internet access monitor NetBlocks said that the Internet had been shut down in the region, confirming reports that authorities had shut down telephone and Internet services.

Debretsion Gebremichael, the president of the Tigray region, said on Monday that Abiy’s government was planning to attack the region to punish it for holding the September election.

The developments in Ethiopia could have grave consequences for the region, warned Asnake Kefale, an associate professor of political science at the University of Addis Ababa.

“This conflict could destabilise the wider region if the Ethiopian army can’t get the violence across the country under control,” Asnake said.

Tigrayans ruled Ethiopian politics since guerrilla fighters ousted a Marxist dictator in 1991, but their influence has waned under Abiy. Last year, the TPLF quit his ruling coalition.

Since Abiy came to power in 2018, many senior Tigrayan officials have been detained, fired or sidelined, in what the federal government describes as a clamp-down on corruption but Tigrayans see as a means to quell dissent.

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Tigray’s population makes up 5% of Ethiopia’s 109 million people, but it is wealthier and more influential than many other, larger regions.

Its army is a well-trained force dating back to the 1980s when it led the guerrilla movement that brought the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition to power, analysts say.

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