The African Union has called for a ceasefire in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, where federal troops are engaged in an offensive against the local government that they accuse of attacking a military base last week.
“The chairperson appeals for the immediate cessation of hostilities and calls on parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians,” the AU bloc said in a statement.
Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat also urged the parties to engage in dialogue to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the country.
Hundreds have died in air strikes and fighting in an escalating conflict some fear could slide into civil war given deep animosity between the Tigrayans and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who comes from the largest Oromo ethnic group.
On Tuesday, federal troops fighting local Tigrayan forces were reported to have captured Humera airport, near the border with Sudan and Eritrea.
The Ethiopian Press Agency posted photos that it said showed federal soldiers, backed by forces from the neighbouring Amhara region, at the airport.
Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, ordered air strikes and sent troops into Tigray last week after accusing the TPLF of attacking a military base. Tigrayans say Abiy’s government oppresses and discriminates against them and behaved autocratically in postponing a national election.
Some Ethiopians, including soldiers, have begun crossing into Sudan amid fears of a refugee crisis, according to residents in the region and Sudanese state media.
Military and security sources in Amhara have spoken of 500 deaths on the Tigrayan side and hundreds also from the national military.
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports