Forces from Ethiopia’s rebel Tigray region fired rockets on Friday at the city of Bahir Dar in neighboring Amhara region, but caused no casualties or damage, the Amhara government said, as federal forces advanced towards the capital of Tigray .
The conflict in northern Ethiopia has killed hundreds in the past two weeks, sent 33,000 refugees to Sudan and has questioned whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed can hold his ethnically divided nation together before next year’s elections.
“The illegal group TPLF launched a rocket attack around 1:40 am in Bahir Dar,” the Amhara government communications office said on its Facebook page, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
“The rockets have caused no damage.”
The northern-based TPLF ruled Ethiopia for decades as the most powerful force in a multi-ethnic coalition, until Abiy, Africa’s youngest leader and winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, took power two years ago. years after years of bloody protests against government repression.
He freed thousands of political prisoners, lifted the bans on many political parties, and tried many former regime officials for crimes such as murder or corruption.
The Tigrayans accused him of purging them from positions of power, charges that his government denies.
Amhara, which has a long-standing border dispute with Tigray, has sent regional forces in support of federal troops.
“I heard two explosions,” said a local journalist, adding that the scene had been sealed. “They told me it happened near the airport.”
Another resident also heard two explosions.
“Friends who were in the area told me it happened near the airport and a farm,” he said.
A week ago, Tigray forces fired rockets at two airports in Amhara. They have also fired rockets at the neighboring nation of Eritrea, which has a long-standing enmity with the TPLF leader.
Reports of ethnically motivated killings have emerged during the conflict.
The human rights group Amnesty International documented a mass murder of civilians, many of whom appeared to be Amhara, for what it says were Tigrayan forces on November 9 and 10, and refugees fleeing the conflict to Sudan have said they were attacked for being Tigrayan.
Tigray forces accused the government of bombing a university in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, on Thursday. There was no immediate response from the government, although officials have said they are only hitting military targets.
It has been impossible to verify the claims of all parties because telephone lines and Internet links to Tigray have been cut since the conflict began.
On Thursday, Ethiopia said it was closing in on Mekelle, for whose defense the rebels said they are fighting.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation with 115 million people, is a federation of 10 states run by separate ethnic groups, many of which have used the new freedoms introduced by Abiy to fight with each other and with the government for more power. , money or land. .
Of these, mountainous Tigray, which accounts for about 5% of the population, is smaller but has a long history of dominating security services.
The Tigrayans are also proud of their long guerrilla history; They spearheaded a conflict that toppled a communist regime in 1991.