ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has said that it no longer has presence in the regional state of Afar, months after international uproar over its presence which aid organizations said contributed to blockage of aid entry into the war-ravaged Tigray region.
Conflict broke out in November 2020 between the central government in Addis Ababa and the TPLF, then ruling party in the Tigray region. This followed attacks by gunmen belonging to the TPLF on several federal army government positions in the northern-most region.
The government launched a ‘law enforcement’ operation evicting the rebel group from the capital Mekelle.
However, in a matter of a few months, rebels advanced southward following government withdrawal from Mekelle threatening to capture the capital Addis Ababa, but were then repulsed following waves of several battles that saw Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attending to frontlines.
Late last year, the rebel group said it had withdrawn from all regions outside Tigray, but then sent in troops to some parts of Amhara and Afar claiming that the intention was to block continued federal army attacks on Tigray areas bordering the two regions.
The international community and the government in Addis Ababa have voiced concerns over the presence of Tigray forces in Afar and have constantly urged the rebel group to withdraw its forces to areas of Tigray to enable aid entry amid claims of aid blockage.
Last month, the TPLF said it was committed to further withdrawal from Afar and now the TPLF spokesman Getachew K. Reda says that they have no presence in the Afar region and did not mention as to when precisely the pullout from Afar was conducted.
“A note to the International Community and to all concerned: for the record, there are no Tigray Forces, literally none, left in Afar. The authorities in Addis Ababa know this. And you know it too, more or less. Needless to say, the blockade still continues!” Getachew said.
But the government in Addis Ababa said the reports of rebel withdrawal from Afar region are untrue with Legesse Tulu, a government spokesman, telling state media that the media reports of a rebel pullout were “big lies”.
Afar police said Tigrayan forces are in Koneba, Abala, Berhale and Magale with no changes since Monday, Reuters reported.
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