Prime minister says military operations in Tigray ‘completed and ceased’ after army seizes Mekelle; but no immediate statement from TPLF
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has announced the ending of military operations in the northern Tigray region after the army said it was in “full control” of the regional capital, Mekelle.
There was no immediate comment on Saturday from forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who have been fighting federal troops for more than three weeks.
“The federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle,” Abiy said in a statement posted on his Twitter page.
“I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region,” he said in a separate tweet. “Our focus now will be on rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance while Federal Police apprehend the TPLF clique.”
It followed a statement from army chief General Birhanu Jula, who was quoted as saying by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation that the government forces “completely controlled Mekelle”, adding that 7,000 members of the army’s Northern Command who were held hostage by the TPLF had been freed.
Earlier in the day, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael had said Mekelle, a city of 500,000 people, was under “heavy bombardment”. A diplomat in direct contact with residents also said federal forces had begun an offensive to capture Mekelle.
Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to Tigray have been cut and access has been tightly controlled since fighting began on November 4.