Multiple reports have been emerging this week of renewed heavy fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in what has been described as the Tigray Defense Forces’ (TDF) “first major offensive” against federal forces.
Several areas in Ethiopia’s restive northern Tigray region were affected by fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) soldiers and the rebel TDF this week, according to the BBC.
Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst and former editor of Kenyan news platform Nation, said the fighting was concentrated around Adigrat, nearly 30km south of the Eritrean border and 100km north of Tigray’s capital, Mekelle.
Abdi further said there has been a communication blackout in the region, with the ENDF retreating and air strikes on TDF strongholds.
“TDF rolling into towns and villages. Intense bombardments to stop TDF. Heavy casualties on all sides,” Abdi wrote on social media on Wednesday.
The Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA), a Belgium-based centre of expertise with an extensive network in the Horn of Africa, released a situation report on Wednesday saying that the TDF had captured Adigrat with ease.
However, the ENDF has denied Adigrat being captured by the TDF.
Agulae, a town 45km north of Mekelle, has reportedly been captured by the TDF, EEPA said.
According to EEPA, multiple reports have also stated that several people were killed in an air strike by the ENDF in the town of Togoga, roughly 25km from Mekelle.
Martin Plaut, a journalist specialising in conflict in the Horn of Africa, tweeted on Wednesday a figure of 54 civilians being killed in Togoga and a further 153 wounded in the bombing.
“The number of casualties could rise as ambulances were blocked at the checkpoint by Ethiopian soldiers. Prevented from picking up the wounded,” he wrote.
The BBC reported that those injured in the air strike included a 2-year-old child and a 16-year-old boy.
The ENDF has reportedly denied that the air strike targeted civilians, saying its goal was to neutralise terrorists, wrote the BBC.
The latest attacks by the TDF are being called “their first major offensive”.
The TDF has reportedly killed more than 10 000 soldiers and captured over 3 300 more, in addition to seizing weapons, ammunition and vehicles, according to Gebre Gebretsadkan, a spokesperson for the TDF.
EEPA has corroborated “images shown of large numbers of prisoners of war (POW) taken by the TDF”.
The conflict in the Tigray region has been ongoing since November 2020 when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked an ENDF military base in Tigray. The ENDF responded with a military offensive.
The TPLF has been labelled a terrorist group by the Ethiopian government.
Thousands have been killed in the conflict, according to the BBC.
EEPA, citing the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), has reported of more than 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Tigray.