Ethiopian Rebels Fire Rockets Into Eritrea, Threatening Wider Conflict

A brewing civil war in Ethiopia has left hundreds dead and forced thousands to flee

Soldiers headed to Tigray on Nov. 9.

Photo: tiksa negeri/Reuters

Ethiopia’s conflict with its regional government of Tigray is spilling into the wider Horn of Africa region, after militias in the rebellious state fired rockets at targets in the capital of neighboring Eritrea and threatened more.

Ethiopia is facing a brewing civil war between the central government and the defiant and heavily armed Tigray, a largely autonomous state in the northern part of the country that wants a bigger voice in national rule. The crisis, which has left hundreds dead and forced thousands to flee, is reopening fault lines across a volatile region perched on strategic waterways where a border conflict killed tens of thousands of people two decades ago. 

香蕉视频苹果下载The leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party of the regional government, said on Sunday that his forces fired a volley of rockets at Asmara, Eritrea’s mountaintop capital, on Saturday night.

香蕉视频苹果下载Tigray’s regional government has asserted that some 16 Eritrean military divisions are fighting alongside the Ethiopian government against Tigrayan soldiers, a claim both governments deny.

香蕉视频苹果下载“The Eritrean and Ethiopian army are fighting us,” said Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of Tigray’s regional government. “We shall protect our country from invaders.” 

Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of Tigray’s regional government, says, ‘We shall protect our country from invaders.’

Photo: EPA/Shutterstock

At least three of the rockets hit Asmara airport, according to regional diplomats, although it couldn’t be determined if anyone had been killed. In a Saturday night security alert, the U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said “a series of loud noises were heard in Asmara.”

Tibor Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state in Africa said in a tweet that the U.S. condemns the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s attack on Eritrea and “its efforts to internationalize the conflict in Tigray.”

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for ending a three-decade border war香蕉视频苹果下载 with Eritrea that was hailed as the fall of Africa’s “Berlin Wall.” But his sweeping reforms ending the country’s federal system and centralizing decision-making marginalized the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, which had played a dominant role in Ethiopian politics since the end of communist rule in 1991.

香蕉视频苹果下载Tensions have been building since the TPLF refused to join Mr. Ahmed’s ruling coalition. The TPLF then defied the government by holding regional elections that had been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

香蕉视频苹果下载Both sides have accused each other of trying to provoke a military confrontation before active clashes began last week, prompting fears that a key ally in the West’s war on terror could plunge into a dangerous internal conflict.

More than 500 people have been killed, according to state television, but regional analysts put the number far higher.

The Eritrean government, led by the autocrat Isaias Afwerki, has long been hostile to Tigray’s regional government for their role in a devastating border conflict between 1998 and 2000, despite signing a peace deal with Ethiopia last year, according to observers and diplomats. 

香蕉视频苹果下载The Tigray state has accused Mr. Ahmed of doing the bidding of Mr. Afwerki, who has held power for 27 years and controls a vast standing army estimated at 200,000 people by the CIA.

香蕉视频苹果下载“A weakened Tigrayan state is in the interests of Eritrea’s president,” said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, an Africa analyst at U.K.-based Verisk Maplecroft. “Tigray is a strategic vulnerability for Eritrea.”

香蕉视频苹果下载Mr. Ahmed on Sunday said in a brief statement that the country isn’t receiving any help from foreign governments and that “Ethiopia is more than capable of attaining the objectives of the operation by itself.”

He didn’t mention the rocket attack or Eritrea but said that “Ethiopia will prevail.” His government views the TPLF as illegitimate and says their members must be arrested and their weapons stocks destroyed.

Ethiopia’s military continued bombardment using ground troops and the air force on Sunday.

Ethiopian migrants who fled fighting in Tigray waiting for food at a reception center in eastern Sudan.

Photo: ebrahim hamid/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The number of refugees fleeing across Sudan’s border has passed 25,000, according to the United Nations. The U.N. has warned of a looming humanitarian disaster with millions at risk amid dwindling supplies of food, fuel and other supplies.

香蕉视频苹果下载Ethiopia said Thursday it had captured western parts of Tigray effectively boxing it in by blockading its southern frontier and western border with Sudan. Eritrea borders Tigray to the north.

Cornered, some fighters have begun to target civilians, according to rights groups. Unidentified gunmen killed 34 people in an attack on a bus in western Ethiopia on Saturday night, according to Ethiopia’s human rights commission, adding that similar attacks are forcing people to flee their homes in other parts of the country.

Amnesty International said last week that hundreds of civilians were stabbed and hacked to death in the region, but the rights group said it hadn’t been able to independently confirm who was responsible. Local witnesses said the Tigrayan forces were responsible, but the TPLF blamed the Ethiopian government.

The TPLF, which has manned the heavily militarized border with Eritrea since the border war, has veteran fighters who know the mountainous terrain and sophisticated and heavy weaponry.

香蕉视频苹果下载The Tigrayan leader Mr. Gebremichael said on Sunday that his fighters have more long-range missiles at their disposal, raising concerns they could strike Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

香蕉视频苹果下载“We will ensure that the force that invaded Tigray pays a heavy price,” Mr. Gebremichael said.

Write to Nicholas Bariyo at nicholas.bariyo@wsj.com

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