The Ethiopian government accuses Tigray forces of expanding the conflict into the neighboring Afar region, the third regional state to be drawn into the conflict. Authorities say this has imperiled food aid to some of the 54,000 people who have fled their homes due to the fighting.
Mitiku Kasa, Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commissioner told the state-run Ethiopian News Agency that over 180 trucks transporting food aid for the people of Tigray are stuck at the border between Afar and Tigray.
Kasa blamed the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or the TPLF, for creating chaos and described the group as “cruel” for blocking the aid.
The fight with the Tigray forces expanded to Afar last weekend when fighters attacked residents at the border of Afar and Tigray, Afar regional authorities said.
Ahmed Kireta, the Afar Regional State Communications Office Head, said Tigray forces opened fire in the Afar region’s zone four district. Residents of the area were caught off guard, Kireta said, and accused the TPLF of killing pastoralists in the area, burning property and sexually assaulting women. He said Afar regional militia and local police known as “liyu police” are working to stop them.
Ahmed said elderly women and children were victims of the initial attack and accused the TPLF of continued fighting in three other areas of the Afar region’s fourth district.
He said there is ongoing fighting in an area called Yalo in the region’s district four, and Tigray forces have entered areas further such as Golina and Awra attacking civilians. Ahmed accused the forces of burning down and looting the town of Akar, located at the border. He said fighting continues but regional authorities are fighting back to push the forces out. As a result, 54,000 civilians have fled their homes, and regional authorities are assessing the overall damage.
Ahmed said the Afar region’s militia and police are working with federal forces to push out forces that are associated with the TPLF.
Afar is the third region to become embroiled in conflict since the war in the Tigray region began in November 2020. In the capital, Addis Ababa, the government of Ethiopia organized a rally in support of federal forces. Residents carried banners that called for an end to what they termed as foreign meddling in internal matters.
The mayor of the capital city, Adanech Abiebie, accused the TPLF of using lobbyists to create a negative portrayal of Ethiopia. She said the country’s federal forces are sacrificing their lives defending the country.
On Monday, Ethiopia’s army chief of staff, General Berhanu Jula, who hasn’t been seen in public in recent weeks, said federal forces are on standby to act if necessary.
He said if the TPLF want to achieve their goals through force, the national defense force is now more organized than it was when the war began. He says the army is armed and has experience. He added that the federal forces are just waiting for an order from the government.
Colonel Getnet Adane, Ethiopian National Defense Force Public Relations Officer, told state media that the federal forces have taken appropriate measures against the Tigray forces in fighting along the borders of the Amhara region and the Afar region.
However, Getachew Reda, TPLF spokesperson said Tigray forces are making gains on both fronts. Getachew said the Ethiopian government has tried to send brigades of fighters to the regions to fight back but they haven’t been successful.