Ethiopia PM orders response after 'attack' on military camp in restive Tigray region

Addis Ababa (AFP) –


Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Wednesday he had ordered a military response to an "attack" by the ruling party of the restive Tigray region on a camp housing federal troops.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) "has attacked a military camp" in the region and "tried to loot" military assets, Abiy said in a post on Facebook and Twitter.

"Our defence forces... have been ordered to carry out their mission to save the country. The final point of the red line has been crossed. Force is being used as the last measure to save the people and the country," he said.

Details on the alleged attack in Tigray were not immediately available, and calls to the northern region were not going through.

It was also not immediately clear what form the federal military response might take, though analysts and diplomats have been warning for weeks that the standoff between the federal government and the TPLF could spill over into violence.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018 on the strength of anti-government protests.

Under Abiy, winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, Tigrayan leaders have complained of being unfairly targeted in corruption prosecutions, removed from top positions and broadly scapegoated for the country's woes.

Ethiopia was due to hold national elections in August, but the country's poll body ruled in March that all voting would need to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers then voted to extend officials' mandates -- which would have expired in early October -- but Tigrayan leaders rejected this and went ahead with regional elections in September that Abiy's government deemed illegal.

Now each side sees the other as illegitimate, and federal lawmakers have ruled Abiy's government should cut off contact with -- and funding to -- Tigray's leadership.

In recent days tensions have risen over who controls federal military personnel and assets in Tigray.

Last week Tigray blocked a general appointed by Abiy from assuming his military post, saying Abiy no longer had the authority to make such moves.