Rebellious forces from Ethiopia’s Tigray region fired rockets at the airport in Eritrea’s capital Asmara on Saturday evening, their leader said on Sunday, confirming earlier reports of a major escalation in a 12-day old conflict in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in the restive Tigray northern region on Nov.4, after accusing Tigrayan forces of attacking federal troops based in the northern region, which borders Eritrea and Sudan.
His government says the Ethiopian military has been carrying out air strikes in an attempt to destroy equipment including arms depots controlled by the insurgents.
The Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael said that his forces have been fighting “16 divisions” of the Eritrean army “on several fronts” for the past few days. He did not give an estimate for how many troops he believes Eritrea has deployed. Eritrea has a vast standing army which the United States’ CIA puts at 200,000 personnel.
He said Eritrean forces have crossed into Ethiopia at Badme, Rama and Zalambessa, three border towns in the restive northern region.
“Our country is attacking us with a foreign country, Eritrea. Treason!” he said in a Reuters report.
Tesfa news website tweeted: “Two rockets fired from #TPLF held territories in #Tigray to attack Asmara airport (+air force) have missed their targets and landed at the outskirts of Asmara.”
The Eritrean government is yet to comment on the rocket attacks, but many Eritreans have tweeted to confirm that two rockets hit Asmara.
The local government of Tigray has been fighting forces of the Federal government in Addis Ababa.
On Friday night, the Ethiopian government accused forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of firing rockets at two cities in a neighbouring state.
The state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted the Ethiopia State of Emergency task force as saying that rockets were fired towards the cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar in the Amhara Region.
As a result, it said, the airport areas were damaged.
“The TPLF junta is repairing and utilising the last of the weaponry within its arsenals. This is indicative of TPLF’s last resort attempts to maintain control,” the State of Emergency task force said.
The TPLF leadership has since claimed responsibility for the rocket strikes on the cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar.
Violence erupted at the start of the month in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, which prompted the prime minister to order a military offensive.
Prior to the Tigray escalation, dozens of people in western Oromia region were killed and injured in attacks.
The Ethiopian Federal Government has also declared a six-month state of emergency in the Tigray Region, whose government is controlled by TPLF.
Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has, meanwhile, announced the arrest 14 Al-shabaab and ISIS terrorist members who were on a mission to carry out attacks on various areas in the country.
The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted NISS as saying Al-Shabaab and ISIS sent their members to the capital, Addis Ababa and various parts of the country “to carry out terrorist acts that damage human life and property as well as tarnish the image of the country”.
It said communication equipment and other materials prepared to be used for the destructive missions were also seized.
NISS said the terrorist groups plotted to attack various parts of the country seizing the window of opportunity opened by the conflict in Tigray Region, where the federal government has been carrying out a military operation.
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