Ethiopia begins manhunt for Tigray rebel leaders

Ethiopia Prime minister, Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia Prime minister, Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia Prime minister, Abiy Ahmed says operation in Mekelle over, Tigray leaders wanted

By Agency Reporter

The Ethiopian government launched a manhunt on Sunday for leaders of a rebellious faction in the northern region of Tigray.

The manhunt was announced after federal troops said they had taken over the regional capital Mekelle and military operations were complete.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said hospitals in Mekelle are running low on supplies such as gloves to care for the wounded, and one hospital is lacking body bags for the dead.

An ICRC statement did not give any numbers for the dead and wounded, but said the situation was “quiet” on Sunday.

The government has not said if there were casualties in its offensive to take the city.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been trying to quell a rebellion by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a powerful ethnically-based party that dominated the central government for nearly three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018.

He said on Saturday evening federal troops had taken control of Mekelle within hours of launching an offensive there, allaying fears of protracted fighting in the city of 500,000 people.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael later told Reuters in a series of text messages that his forces were withdrawing from around the city but would fight on, raising the spectre of a drawn-out guerrilla war.

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Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly 44,000 have fled to neighbouring Sudan since fighting began on Nov. 4.

The conflict has been another test for Abiy, who is trying to hold together a patchwork of ethnic groups that make up Ethiopia’s 115 million people.

The flow of refugees and attacks by the TPLF on neighbouring Eritrea have also threatened to destabilize the wider Horn of Africa region.

Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down and access tightly controlled since fighting erupted this month.

The prime minister, who refers to the three-week-old conflict as an internal law and order matter, has rebuffed international offers of mediation.

He said federal police would try to arrest TPLF “criminals” and bring them to court.

Late on Saturday, police issued arrest warrants for 17 more military officers charged with crimes including treason and embezzlement of public properties, state-affiliated Fana TV reported.

Arrest warrants have already been issued for 117 senior officers with alleged ties to the TPLF since the conflict began.

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