Tigrayan television has shown images of a plane shot down and shown the pilot
Tigray forces claim to have shot down Ethiopian plane, taken town
Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down and access tightly controlled since the fighting began on Nov. 4.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been trying to quell a rebellion by the TPLF, a powerful ethnically-based party that dominated the central government from 1991 until Abiy came to power in 2018.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly 44,000 have fled to Sudan since the fighting began. The conflict has been another test for Abiy, who took office two years ago and is trying to hold together a patchwork of ethnic groups that make up Ethiopia’s 115 million people.
Abiy said on Saturday evening federal troops had taken control of the Tigrayan capital Mekelle within hours of launching an offensive there, laying to rest fears of protracted fighting in the city of 500,000 people.
The prime minister, who refers to the three-week-old conflict as an internal law and order matter and has rebuffed international offers of mediation, said federal police would now try to arrest TPLF “criminals” and bring them to court.
TPLF leader Debretsion said on Saturday evening in a series of text messages to Reuters that his forces were withdrawing from around the city but would fight on, raising the spectre of a drawn-out guerrilla war.
In text messages on Sunday, he said that his forces had shot down an Ethiopian military plane and captured the pilot, and had also retaken the town of Axum.
Also on Sunday, Ethiopian state TV (ETV) said on Sunday that 70 graves, some individual and some containing multiple bodies were found in the town of Humera in Tigray. The news reader did not say who might have killed the people buried in the graves.
Regional diplomats and experts have warned that a rapid military victory might not signal the end of the conflict.
The TPLF has a history of guerrilla resistance. Tigray’s mountainous terrain and borders with Sudan and Eritrea helped the TPLF during its long struggle against Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, whom it eventually toppled in 1991.
Tigrayan forces say they have retaken Ethiopian town of Axum from military
Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), made the claim a day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the military had taken the Tigray regional capital Mekelle and completed its operation.
Claims from all sides have been difficult to verify as phone and internet links to Tigray have been down and access has been tightly controlled since fighting erupted on Nov. 4. (Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom Editing by Frances Kerry)