Ethiopia’s Abiy says Tigray fighting ‘completed’ as army claims regional capital

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Saturday that military operations in the country's northern Tigray region were "completed." (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

Ethiopia’s Abiy says Tigray fighting ‘completed’ as army claims regional capital

  • For more than three weeks now, Ethiopia and Tigray have engaged in fierce fighting
  • Global concern remains centered on the half a million residents of Mekele, Tigray’s regional capital

MEKELLE: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Saturday that military operations in the country's northern Tigray region were "completed" after the army claimed control of the regional capital, declaring victory in a three-week-old conflict that has left thousands dead.
"I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the #Tigray region," Abiy said in a Twitter post Saturday night.
Abiy, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced on November 4 he had ordered military operations against leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party that dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before he came to power in 2018.
Tigray has been under a communications blackout ever since, making it impossible to know the full toll of fierce fighting that has included multiple rounds of air strikes and at least one massacre that killed hundreds of civilians.
After securing control of western Tigray and giving TPLF leaders a 72-hour ultimatum to surrender, Abiy announced on Thursday he had ordered a "final offensive" against pro-TPLF forces in the regional capital, Mekele, a city of half a million.
Global concern mounted over a possible bloodbath, and heavy shelling was reported in Mekele earlier Saturday.
But on Saturday night Gen Berhanu Jula, the army chief, said in a statement that his forces "completely controlled" Mekele.
A government statement specified that federal forces had been able to "take control of the airport, public institutions, the regional administration office and other critical facilities".
Berhanu said his troops were now "hunting for members of the TPLF junta that are in hiding".
There was no immediate response from the TPLF.

Ever since Abiy took office, TPLF leaders have complained of being sidelined from top positions, targeted in corruption prosecutions and broadly scapegoated for the country's woes.
Tensions rose dramatically after Abiy's government postponed national elections scheduled for August, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Tigray held its own elections the following month and branded Abiy an illegitimate ruler.
The military operations that began on November 4 were, in Abiy's telling, triggered by attacks by pro-TPLF forces on two federal army camps in Tigray -- one in Mekele and another in the town of Dansha.
On Saturday the government said it controlled the camp in Mekele and had secured the release of thousands of federal army officers held hostage there.
Despite Abiy's triumphant statement, it was not immediately clear fighting in Tigray would end right away.
Tigray has considerable military assets, and at the outset of the conflict analysts estimated the TPLF could mobilise some 200,000 troops.
"The key next issues are what intent and capabilities do the Tigrayan forces have to continue armed resistance as an insurgency, and how will people react to the provisional government that will be established," said William Davison, analyst for the International Crisis Group.


Dutch government collapses over benefits scandal

Updated 6 min 48 sec ago

Dutch government collapses over benefits scandal

  • Parents being targeted for investigation because they had dual nationality also underscored long-standing criticisms of systemic racism in the Netherlands
  • The row threatens to leave the Netherlands without a government in the midst of a surge in cases of a new Covid-19 variant

THE HAGUE: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government resigned on Friday over a child benefits scandal, media reported, threatening political turmoil as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of parents were wrongly accused by Dutch authorities of fraudulently claiming child allowance, with many of them forced to pay back large amounts of money and ending up in financial ruin.
The fact that some parents were targeted for investigation by tax officials because they had dual nationality also underscored long-standing criticisms of systemic racism in the Netherlands.
Dutch media said Rutte was due to give a statement at 1315 GMT about the resignation of his four-party coalition cabinet, which comes just two months before the Netherlands is due to hold a general election on March 17.
A hard-hitting parliamentary investigation in December said civil servants cut off benefits to thousands of families wrongly accused of fraud between 2013 and 2019.
The row threatens to leave the Netherlands without a government in the midst of a surge in cases of a new Covid-19 variant that first emerged in Britain.
Rutte had opposed the cabinet’s resignation, saying the country needs leadership during the pandemic.
He had however said that if it resigned he could be authorized to lead a caretaker government until elections — in which polls say his Freedom and Democracy Party would likely come first.
Other parties in the coalition had pushed for the government to take responsibility for the scandal, which Dutch media said some 26,000 people had been affected.
They could have also faced a confidence vote in parliament next week.
Pressure mounted on the government after opposition Labour party chief Lodewijk Asscher, who was social affairs minister in Rutte’s previous cabinet, resigned on Thursday over the scandal.
Victims also lodged a legal complaint Tuesday against three serving ministers and two former ministers including Asscher.
Many were required to pay back benefits totalling tens of thousands of euros (dollars).
Tax officials were also revealed to have carried out “racial profiling” of 11,00 people based on their dual nationality, including some of those hit by the false benefit fraud accusations.
The Dutch government announced at least 30,000 euros in compensation for each parent who was wrongly accused but it has not been enough to silence the growing clamour over the scandal.
Rutte has led three coalition governments since 2010, most recently winning elections in 2017 despite strong opposition from far-right leader Geert Wilders.
Polls say he is likely to win a fourth term in the next election, with public opinion still largely backing his handling of the coronavirus crisis.