Addis Ababa, Nov. 23, 2020 (PANA/Naija247news) Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has said the second phase of the military operation in northern Tigray Region is now “successfully completed” and has entered the “final and crucial round of capturing Mekelle (the regional capital) to bring the criminals to justice”.
According to the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), Mr. Abiy told members of the Tigray Special Force and militia who are fighting for the Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) to surrender.
“The operation is on its final stage and the Special Forces as well as the militia have 72 hours to surrender to the government,” PM Abiy said in a statement issued on Sunday night. Similarly, he also given the TPLF leaders 72 hours to surrender.
The Ethiopian government said earlier on Sunday that its forces are closing in on Mekelle, as fighting between the two sides intensifies.
The Ethiopia State Emergency Fact Check said “the National Defence Force is edging closer to Mekelle … by taking control of the nearest town Edaga Hamus today (Sunday)”.
It added: “The army is marching to Mekelle which is the final target of the law enforcement operation.”
In a statement on Monday, the premier said the objectives of the first phase were to reorganise and consolidate the Northern Command, which was attacked by the TPLF, and to mend the chain of command of the army so that it could fulfill its responsibilities.
Accordingly, the defence force has been carrying out the operation in various directions to bring the leaders of the TPLF, the regional government, to justice.
“The major objective of the second phase of the operation (was) to encircle Mekelle town by liberating areas occupied by the TPLF junta, freeing the people of Tigray from the group,” Abiy said.
The statement said liberating areas that were under the control of the junta, recapturing the military equipment stolen and military camps, destroying strategic military weapons that were stolen before use, rescuing members of the defence force that were forcefully detained by the TPLF junta and rescuing vulnerable citizens were among the objectives of the second phase of the operation.
Prime Minister Abiy said the Defence force had registered victories in many towns. There is no independent confirmation of the claims and the TPLF leadership has not commented publicly.
The Prime Minister added that despite the TPLF’s intention to disturb religious institutions and locations of historical heritage by exchanging fire, the military operation was conducted with the “utmost caution” not to cause damage in cities as well as avoid civilian targets, historic places, religious institutions, infrastructure, public service institutions and natural resources.
Mr. Abiy called upon Mekelle residents to play a key role in the effort to realise the objectives of the military operation and bring “the treasonous group” to justice.
“No single person should die and no property should be destroyed at the expense of the (TPLF) junta,” he stressed.
The National Defence Force started marching on Mekelle last week Tuesday after a deadline for rebel forces to surrender passed.
The Addis Ababa government says the Federal intervention is a mechanism of protecting and defending the constitutional order.
Some 30,000 Ethiopians have been forced to flee the fighting, with the UN saying that some 4,000 people a day are streaming into Sudan.
Violence erupted at the start of November in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, which prompted the prime minister to order a military offensive.
Prior to the Tigray escalation, dozens of people in western Oromia region were killed and injured in attacks.
The Ethiopian Federal Government has also declared a six-month state of emergency in the Tigray Region, whose government is controlled by TPLF.
The TPLF has accused Prime Minister Abiy, who is from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, of forcing them out of the government and security posts since taking office in 2018