Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says federal forces have defeated local troops in the west of the restive Tigray state.
In a tweet on Thursday, Mr. Abiy accused the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of atrocities during a week of fighting that has threatened to destabilise the Horn of Africa region.
“The western region of Tigray has been liberated,” the prime minister claimed.
Even as Mr. Abiy’s remarks went viral, reports from Tigray spoke of heavy fighting, including air strikes and ground combat, between government forces and the TPLF. Since the fighting erupted last week, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more have been forced to flee across the border into Sudan.
Analysts say the current crisis has stirred Ethiopia’s ethnic divisions and raised questions over the credentials of forty-four-year-old Mr. Abiy, Africa’s youngest leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 over his peace efforts with neighbouring Eritrea.
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report, which cited only eye-witnesses, said on Thursday that scores and possibly hundreds of civilians were stabbed and hacked to death in the Tigray region on November 9.
Amnesty said it had not been able to independently confirm who was responsible, but said the witnesses had blamed fighters loyal to Tigray’s local leaders.
Last week, Mr. Abiy accused the TPLF of attacking a federal military base in Tigray, and ordered government troops into the region.
Earlier in the year, the Tigrayans held local elections which the federal authorities had described as illegal, warning them of unspecified consequences if they continued to undermine the sovereignty of the Ethiopian state.