Ethiopian military forces have reportedly started their planned offensive on rebels in the Tigray region.
Reuters reported that the leader of rebellious forces said on Saturday that Ethiopian government forces had began the offensive to capture the regional capital, Mekelle.
Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was quoted by Reuters as saying that Mekelle was under “heavy bombardment”.
Reuters said that confirmation was given in a text message from Gebremicheal.
Meanwhile Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s office, has said that Ethiopian forces would not “bombard” civilian areas.
Seyoum noted that “the safety of Ethiopians in Mekelle and Tigray region continues as priority for the federal government.”
On Friday Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met the African Union mission trying to resolve the current crisis.
The envoys were in Addis Ababa hoping to mediate between Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as conflict surges.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister earlier rejected what he called international interference in resolving the crisis in the Tigray region.
Ahmed in a statement said the international community should “standby until the government of Ethiopia submits its request for assistance”.
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) November 28, 2020
The AU envoys – ex-presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa are however not allowed to travel to Tigray, the government has already said.