Rockets Hit Asmara after Federal Army Declares Victory over TPLF Forces

ADDIS ABEBA – Rockets launched by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces again hit the capital of Eritrea, reports said on Sunday, as the US embassy in Asmara reported “six explosions” in the city.

The blasts – which the embassy said occurred about 10pm Saturday night – came hours after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory in his military campaign against the ruling party of Tigray, TPLF.

The attack marked the third time Asmara has come under fire from Tigray since military operations began there on November 4.

The TPLF justified that attack by accusing Ethiopia of enlisting Eritrean military support for its campaign in Tigray, which Ethiopia denies.

Reports claimed multiple rockets fired Saturday night appeared to have hit Asmara’s airport and military installations, though as with previous attacks it was unclear where they 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 rocket fire. The TPLF regards Eritrea, which has warm relations with Abiy, as an archenemy.

But some claim the rocket attacks were an effort to internationalize the conflict, which the US government called “an absolute danger” that should be avoided.  “We appreciate the fact that Eritrea has been restrained,” said Tibor P. Nagy, the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs..

Hunting Begins

Abiy said on Saturday that the federal government is “now fully in control of the city of Mekelle” marking the completion of the Federal army’s weeks-long operation in the region.

The federal forces had taken control of key infrastructure in the Mekelle city, including the airport, government offices, and hospitals, the Prime Minister said, adding that residents of the city “provided utmost support and cooperation” to the army during the operation.

“Right now the national defense forces and their colleagues are in the process of stabilizing the city,” said Billene Seyoum, the prime minister’s spokeswoman, in an interview she gave to Al Jazeera.

Security forces are now hunting for TPLF leaders who, the government said, could be hiding out in areas within the vicinity of Mekelle. ABiy has consistently described TPLF’s leadership as a “criminal clique” and said that the police will “bring them to the court of law”.

“Part of the clearing process is going to be done on the outskirts of Mekelle over the next few days,” Billene said.

‘Little Power left’

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades as the most powerful member of a multi-ethnic coalition that ruled with an iron grip until Abiy became prime minister in 2018.

Its officials told Reuters they will fight on with some suggesting that they could shift gears to adopt insurgency-style tactics.

Lt.Gen Bacha Debele, Commander in charge of Raya Front, downplayed their capacity adding the army is ready to prevent “any possible attacks by the TPLF junta in the future”.

He said “the running away TPLF clique has no” significant power left and “efforts will continue to bring the TPLF junta to justice”. The army has also set at least 7, 000 ENDF soldiers imprisoned by the TPLF free.

New Priorities

Authorities have moved to open ‘a humanitarian access route’, to be overseen by the ministry of peace, as part of a response to the needs of citizens in the Tigray Region and the refugees in the region.

The government has also said they were “committed to work with UN agencies” in humanitarian activities which includes returning more than 40,000 Ethiopians who fled to neighboring Sudan since the start of the fighting on November 4.

Apart from rebuilding what has been destroyed, Prime Minister Abiy reiterated the government would focus on “returning those who have fled, with utmost priority of returning normalcy to the people of the Tigray region”.

He also called upon friends of Ethiopia “to join hands in rebuilding the Tigray region and giving its people the respite, humanitarian assistance and security they deserve”.

Earlier this week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission called for urgent priority to rehabilitate victims of the massacre that happened in Maikadra Town on November 9.

The call came after the Commission’s probe found a Tigrayan youth group named as ‘Samri’ were behind the massacre in which its experts say more than 600 non-Tigrayan civilians in the town were killed.

By Staff Writer, Agencies