Sudan braces for up to 200,000 fleeing Ethiopia fighting

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — Up to 200,000 refugees could pour into Sudan while fleeing the deadly conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, officials said, while the first details are emerging of largely cut-off civilians under growing strain. Already at least 6,000 people have crossed the border.

Long lines have appeared outside bread shops in the Tigray region, and supply-laden trucks are stranded at its borders, the United Nations (UN) humanitarian chief in the country told The Associated Press (AP) in an interview.

Communications remain almost completely severed with the Tigray region a week after Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a military offensive in response to an alleged attack by regional forces. He insists there will be no negotiations with a regional government he considers illegal until its ruling “clique” is arrested and its well-stocked arsenal is destroyed.

Britain and the African Union have urged Abiy for an immediate de-escalation as the conflict threatens to destabilise the strategic but vulnerable Horn of Africa region. The United States (US) did not immediately give details on any outreach.

The standoff leaves nearly 900 aid workers in the Tigray region from the UN and other groups struggling to contact the outside world with pleas for help. In addition, more than 1,000 people of different nationalities are stuck in the region, he said. That includes tourists. Countries urgently are seeking their evacuation.

There is no sign of a lull in the fighting that has included multiple airstrikes by federal forces and hundreds of people reported dead on each side.

Ethiopia’s federal government and Tigray’s regional government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), blame each other for starting the conflict. Each regards the other as illegal. The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for years before Abiy came to office in 2018 but has since broken away while accusing the prime minister’s administration of targetting and marginalising its officials.

It remains difficult for diplomats, experts and others to verify either side’s claims about the fighting.