In a Sunday post on his Twitter account, Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, stated that he is giving members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) 72 hours to surrender their arms or face a military attack. The attack, Abiy explained, will be concentrated on Mekelle, the capital of the northern region where the Tigrayan forces have been operating.
“We plead with you to voluntarily surrender within the next 72 hours, bearing in mind that you have no other choice right now,” the Twitter post reads.
The TPLF has not made any comments regarding the ultimatum but explained earlier that it has commenced the digging of pits that would protect its forces against any attack. There have been no further comments from either side since Sunday’s tweet because the phone lines in the country are down. The Ethiopian government forces have captured some cities earlier occupied by the rebels through aerial shelling and ground combats and now wants to do the same for Mekelle.
The dispute between the government forces and the Tigray troops started on November 4 and has led to the death of hundreds of Ethiopians. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have also taken refuge in neighboring countries with a few thousand more running from the northern region to other parts of the country. The rebels have fired rockets into Amhara, another Ethiopian region, and Eritrea, which borders Ethiopia.
Concerned world leaders have counseled caution in dealing with the situation. Some leaders advised Ethiopia to arrange for peace talks with the rebels but it seems the government of the African country is not ready to settle things peacefully. Abiy explained that precautions have been made to avoid the death of civilians during the attack, the Guardian writes.
The prime minister also urged civilians in the region to detach themselves from the group and join forces with the federal troops to end what he described as the tyranny of the Tigrayan troops. According to Abiy, the violence started when Tigrayan soldiers attacked Ethiopian forces in Dansha town on November 4.
The opposite side claims that the violence is a result of the government’s ill-treatment towards them. They explained that Abiy has neglected their region and removed senior Tigrayan officials from their positions in the administration. Abiy is also accused of unjustly arresting and detaining members of the Tigrayan force.
The government’s plan against Tigrayans is to surround the Mekelle with tanks and open fire from all sides until the rebels surrender. A representative of the Ethiopian troops, Colonel Dejene Tsegaye told civilians within the region to shield themselves from the attack because it will be a merciless one. A spokesperson for Abiy later explained that Dejene’s statement about mercilessness was referring to the rebels and not innocent civilians.