Ethiopia’s military has been ordered to complete the “final phase” of a military offensive in the Tigray capital of Mekele, after local forces did not surrender within a 72-hour-deadline imposed by the prime minister.
“The last peaceful gate which had remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through have now been firmly closed as a result of TPLF’s contempt for the people of Ethiopia,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement Thursday, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Earlier this week, Abiy, who last year was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending a long-simmering conflict between his country and neighboring Eritrea, gave the TPLF 72 hours to surrender or face a military offensive on the state’s capital of Mekele.
The Ethiopian army has been battling local forces in Tigray since November 4, when Abiy sent the national defense force into the area, after accusing local forces of attacking a military base there.
Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 40,000 have fled to neighboring Sudan, recounting horrific tales of violence.
Abiy warned residents of Mekele Thursday on to disarm and stay inside.
The conflict has raised alarm from rights organizations and the United Nations, which have urged Abiy to seek a diplomatic solution to the problem, noting the harm faced by civilians already victims of a weak economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
But Abiy thus far has rejected all calls for dialogue.