November 28, 2020 (GMN) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Saturday that military operations in the northern region of Tigray have been completed, shortly after he announced federal troops had seized full control of the regional capital Mekelle.
“I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region,” he said in a tweet. Less than an hour earlier, he said in a statement, “The federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle”.
There was no immediate comment from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, who have been fighting Ethiopian troops for the past three weeks in a conflict that has sent shockwaves through the Horn of Africa.
Abiy said police were searching for the TPLF leaders. It was not clear if any of them had surrendered.
“Federal police will now continue their task of apprehending TPLF criminals and bring them to the court of law,” said the prime minister, who has called the government offensive a law and order operation.
Authorities had said earlier that government forces were in the final stages of an offensive in the region and would take care to protect civilians in Mekelle, a city of 500,000 people.
Abiy said the army had secured the release of thousands of troops from the Northern Command, a military unit based in Tigray, who he said had been held hostage by the TPLF.
Federal troops had taken control of “the airport, public institutions, the regional administration office, and other critical facilities,” Abiy said.
State television said federal forces were in full control of the city by 7 p.m.
Thousands of people are believed to have died during the fighting this month, and some 43,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Sudan.
Abiy accuses Tigrayan leaders of starting the war by attacking federal troops at a base in Tigray. The TPLF says the attack was a pre-emptive strike.
Abiy told African peace envoys on Friday that his government will protect civilians in Tigray. The prime minister has said he regards the conflict as an internal matter and his government has so far rebuffed attempts at mediation. (Reuters)