Ethiopians flee Tigray’s capital for fear of direct attack


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – People continued to flee Ethiopia’s stuck capital of the Tigray region for fear of a direct attack after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the army had been ordered to “the final stage” of the offensive. arrest defiant regional leaders.

The fighting allegedly stayed well past Mekele, outside the densely populated city of half a million people warned by the Ethiopian government of “grace” if they did not separate themselves from Tigray leaders in time. Abiy on Thursday told residents to stay inside and disarm as the army was instructed by tanks to move in. His government has promised to protect civilians.

Food and other supplies are running low in the Tigray region, with a population of 6 million. The UN continues to urge immediate, neutral and impartial access for humanitarian workers. According to the Ethiopian government, a “humanitarian access route” will be opened under the direction of the country’s Ministry of Peace, without details.

More crises are growing. Eritrean refugees are at risk of fire while fighting near their camp of nearly 100,000 in the northern part of the region.

Refugees also told the Associated Press that Ethiopian forces near the Sudanese border are preventing people from leaving Ethiopia, while refugee crossings have slowed for the most part. The Ethiopian government did not comment on this.

More than 40,000 refugees have crossed in remote Sudan, where local communities and humanitarian workers are fighting for food, shelter and care. Almost half of the refugees are children. The spread of COVID-19 is only a cause for concern.

“We can’t keep social distance here in the camp,” Mohammed Rafik Nasri, of the UN refugee agency, said. “It’s actually a big challenge among the issues in need that are growing because their numbers are growing. Today we welcome a 1,000-strong band to the camp. And shelter is one of the biggest challenges we face right now. “

Frightened, sometimes without a word about their loved ones left behind, the refugees continue to share horrific accounts of the fighting and stop stopping.

“It makes me so sad. The country has no peace. You see, one tribe kills another. It’s so hard, ”said one, Atsbaha Gtsadik.

With the severance of communications and transport links, it remains difficult to verify allegations of fighting between the Ethiopian forces and the heavily armed forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which once ruled the Ethiopian government but was set aside under Abiy’s rule, on 4 November. The two governments now consider each other illegal.

Hundreds, maybe thousands, were killed. The struggle threatens to destabilize Ethiopia, which is called a strategic element of the Horn of Africa, and may even destabilize its neighbors.

Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, rejected international “intervention”. His government said three high-level African envoys could meet him, but not Tigray leaders.

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Fay Abuelgasim contributed to Umm Rakouba in Sudan.