NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) – The leader of Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray region has confirmed firing missiles at neighbouring Eritrea’s capital and is threatening more, marking a huge escalation as the deadly fighting in northern Ethiopia between Tigray forces and the federal government spills across an international border.
Tigray regional President Debretsion Gebremichael, in a phone interview yesterday with The Associated Press, would not say how many missiles were fired at the city of Asmara on Saturday but said it was the only city in Eritrea that was targetted.
“As long as troops are here fighting, we will take any legitimate military target and we will fire,” he said, accusing Eritrea of sending troops into the Tigray region and denying reports that Tigray regional forces have entered Eritrea.
“We will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have,” he said. He asserted that around 16 Eritrean divisions are fighting in what he called a “full-scale war”.
The brewing civil war in Ethiopia between a regional government that once dominated the country’s ruling coalition, and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister whose sweeping reforms marginalised the Tigray region’s power, could fracture a key United States (US) security ally and destabilise the strategic Horn of Africa, with the potential to send scores of thousands of refugees into Sudan.
At least three rockets appeared to be aimed at the airport in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, hours after the Tigray regional government on Saturday warned it might attack. It has accused Eritrea of attacking it at the invitation of Ethiopia’s government after the conflict erupted on November 4 with an attack by regional forces on a federal military base in the Tigray region.
In a security alert, the US Embassy in Eritrea said “a series of loud noises were heard in Asmara” on Saturday night, and “unconfirmed reports indicate they may have been explosive devices believed to be in the vicinity of the Asmara International Airport. There are no indications the airport was struck”.
The Tigray regional leader would not say how many missiles remain at his troops’ disposal but said “we have several. We can use it selectively, anywhere”. When asked about possibly targetting Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, he replied: “I don’t want to tell you, but the missiles are long-range as well.”
Eritrean officials have not responded to requests for comment, and there was no immediate comment on the missile attack from Ethiopia’s federal government.