Africa File

A biweekly analysis and assessment of the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa and related security and political dynamics.   Each edition begins "At a Glance." Country-specific updates follow.

Ethiopia Crisis Update: TPLF advances on Mekelle

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) may be attempting to retake Tigray’s capital from Ethiopian federal troops. Federal forces seized Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, from the TPLF in November 2020, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory in Tigray. Fighting has continued in Tigray, however, and the TPLF’s leader urged Tigray residents to continue fighting Ethiopian federal forces in late January.

Limited available information indicates that TPLF forces are attempting to recapture Mekelle. Ethiopian troops are digging defensive trenches in and around the city. The TPLF offensive coincides with the 46th anniversary of the TPLF’s founding on February 18. Mekelle residents *reported seeing red and yellow decorations associated with the TPLF in recent days.

A power blackout is also affecting Tigray. Federal officials *accused the TPLF of severing a power line; alternately, the federal government may have cut power to disrupt a TPLF offensive. Reports of air strikes in Gijet and Samre, roughly 35 miles southwest of Mekelle, around February 16 may also signal the federal government’s response to a TPLF advance.

The renewed fighting follows recent revelations of atrocities allegedly committed earlier in the Tigray conflict. The UN has received reports of large-scale sexual violence. Witnesses also reported a massacre at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Axum that occurred in late November, allegedly involving Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers.

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