Ethiopian PM confirms Eritrean troops entered Tigray during recent conflict
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that troops from neighbouring Eritrea entered the northern Tigray region during the five-month old conflict.
Abiy said that Eritrean troops had entered along the border because they were concerned they would be attacked by Tigrayan forces, adding that the Eritreans had promised to leave when Ethiopia’s military was able to control the border.
The governments of both Eritrea and Ethiopia have repeatedly denied Eritrea’s involvement.
Reuters journalists on a trip to Tigray last week saw truckloads of Eritrean soldiers on the main road between the regional capital Mekelle and Shire, and on the main streets of Shire.
Abiy quoted the Eritreans as saying to Ethiopian authorities: “You left the trenches while searching for the enemy in central Tigray. So, while you attacked them, they might come to us. We controlled areas along the border because we have our national security concerns. But if your army can control the trenches, we will leave the next day.”
He said the Ethiopian government had also raised accusations of widespread looting and rights abuses by Eritrean soldiers.
“The Eritrean government has highly condemned it and said they will be accountable if any of their army participated in this.”
Fighting erupting in Tigray after forces loyal to the regional government – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – attacked army bases across the region overnight and in the early hours of Nov. 4.
The attacks initially overwhelmed the federal military, which later launched a counter offensive alongside Eritrean soldiers and forces from the neighbouring region of Amhara.