Rockets launched from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region targeted the capital of Eritrea several hours after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared military operations in the region were over, diplomats said yesterday.
It remained impossible to independently verify whether the regional capital, Mekele, was completely under federal government control, although an Ethiopian military spokesman said that operations were proceeding “very well.”
The US embassy in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, reported early yesterday that “six explosions” had occurred in the city “at about 10:13pm” on Saturday.
Two Addis Ababa-based diplomats said that multiple rockets appeared to have targeted Asmara’s airport and military installations.
It marks the third time that Asmara has come under fire from Tigray since Abiy ordered military operations against leaders of the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF has claimed responsibility only for the first attack two weeks ago.
It said that Asmara was a legitimate target because Ethiopia was enlisting Eritrean military support for its campaign in Tigray, something Ethiopia denies.
As with the previous attacks it was unclear where the rockets landed and what damage they might have caused.
Eritrea is one of the world’s most secretive countries and the government has not commented on the strikes.
Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced on Nov. 4 that he was sending federal troops into Tigray in response to attacks by pro-TPLF forces on federal army camps.
The move marked a dramatic escalation of tensions between Abiy and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before anti-government protests swept Abiy to office in 2018.
Thousands have died in the fighting and tens of thousands of refugees have streamed across the border into Sudan.
On Saturday night, Abiy declared military operations in Tigray “completed” after the army claimed control of Mekele, a city of 500,000 before the conflict broke out.
Tigray has been under a communications blackout throughout the conflict and media access has been restricted, making it impossible to verify Abiy’s claim.
Little news filtered out of the city yesterday, even through official channels.
An Ethiopian military spokesman, General Mohamed Tessema, said operations were proceeding “very well” and soldiers were “doing their work peacefully,” but added that he could offer no details.
The lack of clarity on the situation in Mekele did not preclude some small-scale celebrations on Saturday night in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and the city of Gondar, in the Amhara region south of Tigray.
“People were out celebrating all night. They fired their guns into the air until midnight and people were shouting: ‘We won,’” Gondar resident Edom Asmare said.
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