The Ethiopian army’s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the area has been going on for three weeks, killing thousands.
On Saturday, SVT reported that about 30 Swedish citizens are missing in Tigray.
– We work intensively to locate these people, says Hans Henric Lundqvist, Sweden’s ambassador to Addis Ababa, to the TV channel.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will later inform VG that Norwegians are also in the conflict-affected region.
– The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware that there are a small number of Norwegians in Tigray. The embassy in Addis Ababa works with the EU and the UN and continuously monitors exit opportunities from Tigray, says spokesperson Guri Solberg to the newspaper.
– Is finished
Saturday night, Ethiopia’s prime minister says the offensive is over.
– I am pleased to announce that we have completed and ended the military operation in Tigray, the Prime Minister wrote in a Twitter message on Saturday night.
The chief of the Ethiopian General Staff, Birhanu Jula, stated to Ethiopian broadcasters on Saturday that the army has control over the city. According to Abiy, it happened “without civilians becoming targets.”
However, the reports leave a number of questions about how the situation is now in Tigray and what has really happened to TPLF and their leaders, as there are few observers in the area and the communication lines are blocked.
– I am very concerned about the reports from Mekelle about fighting. Like the international community, especially the African Union, Norway urges the parties to exercise restraint and protect civilians. Respect for international humanitarian law is crucial in this situation. The conflict must be resolved and peace restored in Tigray, says Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide (H) on Saturday night.
Neither the army nor the prime minister have so far mentioned arrests of any of the TPLF leaders, nor are any figures on those killed or injured.
The first reports that the expected attack on the city with around half a million inhabitants was underway, came earlier Saturday. The Ethiopian government forces have surrounded the city, and the Ethiopian government ordered the army to attack as early as Thursday.
Ethiopian military has begun firing heavy artillery at the center of Mekele, local authorities said on Saturday, and humanitarian organizations working in the city reported the same. Tigray TV also reported shooting.
The Ethiopian government had warned the civilians in the city that no mercy would be shown if they did not get away from the TPLF leaders in time. The Prime Minister, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has completely rejected dialogue with the TPLF.
The offensive and the threat to the civilian population have caused the alarm to go off in the international community. Already, more than 43,000 refugees have sought refuge across the border in Sudan.
The Ethiopian government assured that it would avoid injuring civilians in the attack, which was led by tanks.
Abiy announced the military offensive earlier this month following a TPLF attack on a military base. Since then, fighting has erupted, and there are fears that the situation could destabilize Ethiopia.
Since Tigray’s supply lines have been cut, people in the area are running out of food and other necessities. The UN has called for immediate and unhindered access to bring emergency aid to the province.
Several crises are growing at the same time. In Sudan, the authorities have great difficulty in taking care of tens of thousands of refugees and setting up camps for them. According to a humanitarian organization, the hospitals in Tigray are running out of medicine.
At the same time, fighting in the vicinity of refugee camps where Eritrean refugees are staying in northern Ethiopia has led to this group also ending up in the line of fire.
Lack of money
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited the Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Sudan, which holds around 10,000, on Saturday. He says $ 150 million is needed over the next six months for Sudan to cope with the influx of refugees.
Refugees in Sudan also say that Ethiopian forces near the border are preventing people from leaving the country. In recent days, the number who have managed to take over has fallen sharply. Ethiopian authorities have not commented on the situation.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has so far refused to negotiate with the TPLF and would rather crush them militarily. A delegation from AU failed to shake him on Friday.
Three former African presidents, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from Liberia, Joaquim Chissano from Mozambique and Kgalema Motlanthe from South Africa lined up in Addis Ababa, but had to make a U-turn with an unsolved case.