Ethiopia's prime minister has called on the fugitive leaders of the Tigray region to give themselves up after its capital was taken by government forces on the weekend.
Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2019, said that 30 to 40 rebel leaders should surrender to "save their lives" in a televised address to lawmakers on Monday.
Mr Abiy praised the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) for bringing about a swift end to a three-week conflict that is believed to have caused thousands of deaths and forced around 40,000 Ethiopians to flee to neighbouring Sudan.
His comments contradict claims by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that fighting continues “on every front”.
While the rebels’ exact location is unknown, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters on Monday that he was “close to Mekele in Tigray fighting the invaders.” It is thought that the remaining fighters tactically retreated to nearby mountains days before the assault on the city to avoid casualties.
Ethiopia’s former ruling party also claimed to have shot down a military plane, retaken a local town and captured some Eritrean troops fighting for the federal government. A telephone and electricity blackout has made it impossible to corroborate claims.
Though the TPLF came to power by toppling Ethiopia’s Marxist Derg in the 1990s, it is unclear whether it will be able to repeat the guerilla tactics that made the insurgency successful.
“It is not yet clear what the condition of the Tigrayan security forces are after the recent fighting, nor what the population's reaction is to the federal intervention and the establishment of a provisional government,” said William Davidson, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Ethiopia. Experts fear that Ethiopia may be headed towards a protracted conflict.
Mr Abiy also claimed that “not even a single person was killed” by the government’s offensive and that rockets were not launched to the Tigray region. He said: “Mekele is ours. It was built by our resources, we are not going to destroy it. Not even a single person was affected, damaged by the operation in Mekele.”
Last week, The Telegraph published numerous accounts of Tigrayan refugees in Sudan who claimed to have been bombed and attacked by federal soldiers and knife-wielding allied militiamen. Ethiopia’s state TV reported on Sunday that individual and mass graves of 70 people were found in the town of Humera as both sides accuse each other of atrocities and war crimes.