Addis Ababa, Nov 29 (IANS) Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has confirmed the “full command” of the conflict-ridden Tigray region’s capital, Mekelle, which the completion of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF)’s military operations.
“The federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle,” Ahmed said on Saturday, as he emphasized the “main operation” of the fighting between the Ethiopian army and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) “is now successfully concluded”, reports Xinhua news agency.
“With full command of the regional capital, this marks the completion of the ENDF’s last phase. Federal police will now continue their task of apprehending TPLF criminals and bring them to the court,” Ahmed said in a statement issued on Saturday.
According to Ahmed, the ENDF has thus far managed to secure the release of thousands of Northern Command officers held hostage by the TPLF, secure the Northern Command camp, and take control of the airport, public institutions, the regional administration office and other critical facilities.
He also stressed that the Ethiopian army undertook the operation “with precision and due care for citizens ensuring civilians are not targeted”.
According to Ahmed, the people of the Tigray region “have provided utmost support and cooperation to the ENDF in all corners”.
The Prime Minister also stressed that “we now have ahead of us the critical task of rebuilding what has been destroyed, repairing what is damaged, returning those who have fled, with utmost priority of returning normalcy to the people of the Tigray region”.
“The federal government appreciates the concern shown by the international community,” Ahmed said, as he called upon “friends of Ethiopia to join hands in rebuilding the Tigray region and giving its people the respite, humanitarian assistance and security they deserve”.
Ahmed’s remarks came shortly after the Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Defence Forces, Berhanu Jula, announced on Saturday that the Ethiopian army has “fully controlled Mekelle city”.
Noting that the Ethiopian army is now in full control of TPLF’s last stronghold, the Chief of Staff stressed that the defence forces “are now hunting anti-peace forces in and around Mekelle city”.
According to Jula, more than 7,000 service members, who were captured by the TPLF fighters during TPLF’s assault on the army base near Mekelle city, which eventually led to the start of the fighting, have been freed.
The latest development came after the federal government last week announced the commencement of the “third and final phase” of the military operations towards Mekelle, a city of more than 500,000 people where senior TPLF leaders are believed to be stationed.
Since the early hours of November 4, the Ethiopian government has been undertaking military operations against the TPLF, which rules over the Tigray region.
The federal government’s operations followed the TPLF’s attack on the Northern command base of the Ethiopian Defence Force, a division stationed in the region for over two decades and based in Mekelle.
Prior to the ongoing fighting, the Ethiopian government has blamed the TPLF for masterminding various treasonous acts across the country.