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Rebel Forces Launch New Offensive in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Captive Ethiopian soldiers walk towards the Mekele Rehabilitation Center in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on July 2, 2021.

Rebel forces have launched a new offensive in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a rebel spokesman told AFP on Tuesday, two weeks after an initial offensive that prompted the government to declare a cease-fire.

“Yesterday, we launched an offensive in the Raya region (southern Tigray), and we managed to rout the divisions of the Federal Defense Forces and the Amhara forces,” Getachew Reda told AFP by telephone.

Getachew also said rebel fighters were still “on the trail” of pro-government forces on Tuesday.

“We have succeeded in securing the majority of southern Tigray,” he added, specifying in particular controlling Alamata, the main town in this area and where he claimed to be.

A spokesman for the federal army was not immediately reachable, and it was impossible to verify Getachew’s claims, as communication networks were practically cut off in the region.

On November 4, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military operation in this northern region of the country to disarm and capture the dissident local authorities from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front or the TPLF.

At the end of November, after the capture of the regional capital Mekelle, the government proclaimed victory. But the fighting continued for eight months.

At the end of June, the army withdrew in the face of a lightning advance by pro-TPLF troops, who recaptured Mekelle on the 28th, as well as a majority of Tigray in the following days.

In the process, Addis Ababa declared a cease-fire and withdrew the army.

The rebels’ Monday offensive concerns the southern and western areas of Tigray, which were still controlled by Amhara forces, who came to support the federal army in this conflict marked by atrocities and the growing specter of famine.

“We promised to free every square inch of Tigray,” Getachew said.

He also said that fighting was underway in the west of the region, without specifying exactly where in an area along on the borders of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan.