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The war in northern Ethiopia spreads to the Amhara region after the bombing of two airports

Ethiopian refugees flee the war to neighboring Sudan across the Setit River this Saturday, November 14.EL TAYEB SIDDIG / Reuters

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched a missile attack this Friday against two airfields located in the Amhara region, as acknowledged by the spokesman for the regional Army Getachew Reda on local television. “We have caused serious damage to the military areas of the Gondar and Bahir Dar airports,” said Reda, who also accused the Eritrean authorities of being involved in the bombings against Tigray. In this way, the war between the federal government and the TPLF reaches a second region and threatens to spread to the neighboring country.

“Whether the attacks come from Asmara (the capital of Eritrea) or from Bahir Dar there will be retaliation, we will launch missiles at selected targets in addition to airports,” said Reda, adding new threats against the neighboring country. “We are going to launch missiles to thwart any military movement in Asmara and Massaoua,” an Eritrean port located on the Red Sea. The Ethiopian and Eritrean armies fought hard over a border conflict in the late 1990s when the Tigray dominated the state apparatus in Addis Ababa. Current Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed peace with Eritrea upon coming to power in 2018.

The fear of an inter-community drift of violence is also strong. The massacre on the night of 9 November denounced by Amnesty International (AI), in which dozens of civilians were killed in the town of Mai Kadra with machetes and knives, is a dangerous turning point. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, speaks of possible “war crimes” and announces an investigation. Eyewitnesses told AI that most of the victims were Amharas and that they were killed because of their ethnicity, while the executors were forces loyal to the TPLF, according to testimonies collected by this organization.

On the other hand, the bombings in Tigray and the clashes between the two sides in the western part of this region have caused a huge flow of refugees into neighboring Sudan. The United Nations estimates that there are already about 17,000. Most of these refugees come from the city of Humera, which the federal army claimed to have taken last Wednesday, and they arrive walking to the Sudanese border after 30 kilometers of march. UNHCR has warned of a humanitarian emergency and has asked the two parties to the conflict to open corridors to allow the exit of people and, at the same time, the arrival of supplies.