Fighting breaks out along the border of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Fighting between forces from the northern Ethiopian rebel region of Tigray and central government forces has erupted around the town of Kobo, ending a months-long ceasefire, residents and two sides said on Wednesday.

The fighting is a major blow to hopes for peace talks between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that controls Tigray.

Both sides blamed each other for the outbreak of the fighting.

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“At 5 a.m. today, the TPLF attacked the eastern front from the direction of Bisober, Zobel and Tekulci. By carrying out this action, it effectively violated the ceasefire,” the state communications service said in a statement.

The day before, when allegations of troop movement were ignited by social media, the army issued a statement accusing the Tigrayan side of preparing to attack and covering their tracks by spreading false news about military movements.

“It has become a secret that they (the TPLF) are carrying out a campaign to criminalize our army,” the statement said, accusing the TPLF of fomenting “pre-conflict propaganda.”

In turn, the military leadership of Tigray forces accused the government of violating the ceasefire, saying in a statement that it believed the attack near Kobo, south of Tigray, was a diversion and its forces expected a major attack from the west.

Tigrayan’s statement identified the units he said had been sent to the front line and said the government had been repositioning its forces over the past five days.

Three residents reported hearing heavy weapons since the early morning. They also said that there have been movements of Ethiopian soldiers, Amhara special forces and Fano militia volunteers in the past two days.

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They said they did not know who started the fight. Reuters was not immediately able to obtain information about the movements of the Tigrayan forces. Telephone communications within Tigray have been disrupted for more than a year.

Radwan Hussein, the prime minister’s national security adviser, said the Ethiopian army had shot down a plane carrying weapons to Tigray that had entered Ethiopian airspace from neighboring Sudan. He did not say where the plane was shot down.

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the TPLF, said the statement was a “blatant lie” in a tweet. A Sudanese military spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Fighting in Africa’s second most populous country has displaced millions, pushed parts of Tigray into starvation, and killed thousands of civilians.

long war

The war erupted in Tigray in November 2020 and spread to the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions a year ago. Last November, Tigrayan’s forces raced towards Addis Ababa, but were pushed back by a government offensive that month.

A ceasefire was announced in March after both sides fought a bloody stalemate and the government declared a humanitarian truce, allowing much-needed food aid to enter the region.

In June, Abiy’s government set up a negotiating committee with the Tigray Liberation Front, and earlier this month the government said it wanted talks “without preconditions”. The Tigray government has called for the restoration of services to civilians before the talks begin. Read more

Tigray has been without banking and communications since the army withdrew at the end of June. Fuel imports are restricted, limiting aid distribution.

The World Food Program said in a report last week that since April 1, only 20% of the fuel needed to distribute humanitarian supplies has entered Tigray. Read more

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Nearly 90% of the region’s population is in need of aid, the United Nations said, warning that malnutrition rates “have risen dramatically” and the situation is expected to worsen until the October season.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday called for a ceasefire, peace talks, full access to humanitarian aid and the re-establishment of public services in Tigray.

The US State Department said it was concerned by reports of renewed hostilities and called on the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front to redouble efforts to advance talks to achieve a permanent ceasefire.

“A return to active conflict will lead to widespread suffering, increased human rights violations, create more economic hardship, and will be to the benefit of those who seek to undermine peace and security in Ethiopia,” Deputy Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vidant Patel told reporters during a telephone briefing. .

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Reporting from the newsroom in Nairobi; Additional reporting by Daphne Psalidakis in Washington. Editing by Nick McPhee, Frank Jack Daniel’s and Leslie Adler

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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