Fighting flares in Ethiopia's Tigray as army says closing in on rebellious force
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Bombing, looting and skirmishes persisted in parts of Ethiopia's Tigray on Saturday, a rebellious force in the northern region said after government troops declared they were within days of capturing the group's leaders. A month of fighting between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's federal army and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is believed to have killed thousands of people and driven some 46,000 refugees into neighbouring Sudan. Abiy's government has said the conflict is winding down a week after it seized Tigray's regional capital, Mekelle, but TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters in a text message on Saturday there was still fighting outside the city.
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Bombing, looting and skirmishes persisted in parts of Ethiopia's Tigray on Saturday, a rebellious force in the northern region said after government troops declared they were within days of capturing the group's leaders.
A month of fighting between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's federal army and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is believed to have killed thousands of people and driven some 46,000 refugees into neighbouring Sudan.
Abiy's government has said the conflict is winding down a week after it seized Tigray's regional capital, Mekelle, but TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters in a text message on Saturday there was still fighting outside the city.
He said federal forces bombed the town of Abbi Adi on Friday, without giving further details, while a TPLF spokesman accused government troops of looting in Mekelle.
"(They are) looting civilian properties, hotels and damaging factories after looting," the spokesman Getachew Reda told a TPLF-owned TV station.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Most communications in Tigray are down and access to the area is severely restricted, making it hard to verify either side's statements.
Abiy used to be a political partner of the TPLF - which dominated Ethiopia's governing coalition for nearly three decades - but he irked his former allies by putting Tigrayan officials on trial for corruption and rights abuses.
They said the arrests were politically motivated, accusing Abiy of trying to tighten his grip over Ethiopia's 10 semi-autonomous federal states. Abiy denies that, and has called the TPLF leaders criminals who mutinied against federal authority.
'HIDING IN CAVES'
Army Colonel Shambel Beyene said late on Friday that government forces were 10 km (six miles) away from a forest in the Gore area where Debretsion, Getachew and other TPLF members were thought to be hiding.
"We will only need a few days to get to them," he said on state television.
Relief agencies, meanwhile, are worried about a lack of food, fuel, medicines and even body bags in Tigray. Convoys are on standby to take aid in.
Residents in the central town of Shire told a new government-appointed provisional administration that the cost of groceries was sky-rocketing and fuel shortages were grounding ambulances used to take patients to hospitals.
"Residents are still staying away from their homes. Women are hiding in caves with their children," one man said at a meeting aired on EBC late on Friday.
Others complained about looting in the town.
Abiy's government has said it will protect civilians in the northern region and ensure their needs are met.
"Work to rebuild Tigray has commenced with teams ... undertaking repair work (and) restoring services," he said in a Tweet on Saturday.
Abiy, who took office in 2018, won a Nobel Peace Prize the following year for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea and democratic reforms.
He began opening up a closed economy, loosening a repressive political system, and taking action against those accused of corruption and rights abuses - some of whom were Tigrayan officials.
His government has also jailed thousands of opponents after violent unrest, angering his rivals.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsroom; Additional reporting by Nazanine Moshiri in Nairobi; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Tim Cocks and Helen Popper)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.