The leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region yesterday confirmed firing missiles at neighboring Eritrea’s capital and is threatening more, marking a huge escalation as the deadly fighting in northern Ethiopia between Tigray forces and the federal government spills across an international border.
Tigray People’s Liberation Front Chairman Debretsion Gebremichael in a telephone interwiew would not say how many missiles were fired at the city of Asmara on Saturday, but said that it was the only city in Eritrea that was targeted.
“As long as troops are here fighting, we will take any legitimate military target and we will fire,” he said, accusing Eritrea of sending troops into the Tigray region and denying reports that Tigray regional forces have entered Eritrea.
“We will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have,” he said.
He asserted that about 16 Eritrean divisions are fighting in what he called a “full-scale war.”
The brewing civil war in Ethiopia between a regional government that once dominated the country’s ruling coalition and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister whose sweeping reforms marginalized the Tigray region’s power, could fracture a key US security ally and destabilize the strategic Horn of Africa region, with the potential to send scores of thousands of refugees into Sudan.
At least three rockets appeared to be aimed at the airport in Asmara, hours after the Tigray regional government said that it might attack.
It accuses Eritrea of attacking at the invitation of Ethiopia’s government after the conflict in the Tigray region erupted on Nov. 4 with an attack by regional forces on a federal military base there.
In a security alert, the US embassy in Eritrea said “a series of loud noises were heard in Asmara” on Saturday night, and “unconfirmed reports indicate they may have been explosive devices believed to be in the vicinity of the Asmara International Airport. There are no indications the airport was struck.”
Gebremichael would not say how many missiles remain at his forces’ disposal, but said: “We have several. We can use it selectively, anywhere.”
Asked about targeting Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, he said: “I don’t want to tell you, but the missiles are long-range as well.”
Eritrean officials have not responded to requests for comment.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a brief statement declared that “Ethiopia is more than capable of attaining the objectives of the operation by itself.”
He did not mention the missiles or Eritrea, but added: “Justice will prevail. Ethiopia will prevail!”
Gebremichael said that he had no communication with Ethiopia’s federal government.
The African Union is pushing for a ceasefire, he said, “but the prime minister is not ready to listen. He believes in the might he has.”
He called it a “really messy situation which requires international intervention.”
Tigray’s regional government broke away from Ethiopia’s ruling coalition last year.
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