Rebels Enter Mekelle as Ethiopian Forces Retreat From Tigray

Rebels Enter Mekelle, as Ethiopian Forces Retreat From Tigray
A member of the Amhara Special Forces looks on as he holds his rifle at the 5th Battalion of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Army in Dansha, Ethiopia, on November 25, 2020. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP) (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images)

In a major turn in Ethiopia’s eight-month civil unrest in the northern Tigray region, Tigrayean fighters began entering the regional capital Monday night after Ethiopian government troops retreated from the city.

The Ethiopian military in concert with militia forces from Eritrea had invaded and occupied the Tigray region since last November to wrest control from the regional government.

The Tigray Defense Forces spent months regrouping and recruiting new fighters, and then in the past week began a rolling counteroffensive back toward the capital, Mekelle.

Thousands of residents took to the streets on Monday night, waving flags and shooting off fireworks after hearing that Tigrayan forces had reached the capital.

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed had vowed last year, that the operation in the restive region would be over in a matter of weeks.

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International observers have accused the invading forces of wide-ranging atrocities, including sexual violence, ethnic cleansing, and of steeping the region to the brink of famine.

But from the outset, the party in control of Tigray’s regional government, known as the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (T.P.L.F), which for many years was the ruling party in Ethiopia, has vowed to resist.

Among other overbearing acts by the state, soldiers disconnected the internet access to UNICEF and the World Food Program

The Tigray Defense Forces have in recent weeks captured areas south of Mekelle that were until recently, controlled by soldiers from the neighbouring country of Eritrea.

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Chief Executive of Tigray’s Interim Administration, Abraham Belay announced that his administration has asked the federal government for a ceasefire agreement to provide a timely framework on the plight of Tigray farmers. Abraham stated that the need for a ceasefire ahead of the summer farming season, a better delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.

In a nine-point request to the federal government, the interim administration noted that it made the proposal last week, following intensive discussion with regional leaders, Tigrayean intellectuals, entrepreneurs and religious leaders. He pointed out that some in the fighting force out there are currently seeking a way to peace and it was important to give these forces a chance.

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Eritrea had allied with the Ethiopian government. The rebels say they have captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers and are holding them as prisoners of war.

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