Ethiopian leader warns fugitive Tigray leaders to surrender

HAMDAYET, SUDAN (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister issued a “final notice” on Friday to the fugitive leaders of the country’s embattled Tigray region, saying they should surrender peacefully to avoid “severe punishment” and prevent the “misery of their people”.

At the same time, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged the untold hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans who have fled their communities over the past four months of fighting to return to their homes within a week and resume “normal lives”. Abiy’s notice alleges that some civilians took up arms, perhaps under threat of force, but said they “are not the main culprits”.

The new warning came as people described seeing a larger presence of Ethiopian forces on the way to the place that Tigrayans have used to flee the region, the border crossing into the remote town of Hamdayet in Sudan. Ethiopian and allied forces for months have allegedly blocked people from crossing, though more than 60,000 have made it into Sudan.

Abiy’s new statement does not say what exactly will happen if Tigray’s fugitive political and military leaders do not turn themselves in. It reminds them to “do their part by learning from the devastation and damage so far” and preventing further bloodshed.

A Tigrayan refugee woman stands in front of her shelter at Hamdeyat Transition Center near the Sudan-Ethiopia border. PHOTO: AP