Ethiopia to begin ‘final phase’ of offensive in Tigray: PM Abiy says

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - (ARCHIVE) : A file photo dated March 12, 2019 shows Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaking during a joint press conference held with French President Emmanuel Macron (not seen) following their meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. (Photo by Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaq/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday said that the military will begin the ‘final phase’ of an offensive in the rebellious northern Tigray region, hours after an ultimatum for Tigray forces to surrender expired.

Abiy released a statement via his Twitter page where he said that the 72-hour period granted to the criminal TPLF clique to surrender peacefully was over and that the law enforcement campaign had reached its final stage.

“When the federal government issued the 72-hour surrender time, it had two objectives… it was to demonstrate that the intention of our operations is to enforce the rule of law per the laws of the land. If the TPLF clique chose to peacefully surrender, the campaign would have been finalized with the least amount of damage,” he said.

Abiy added that the second objective of the 72-hour surrender time was to provide protection for those who understand the criminality of the TPLF clique and to distance themselves from the group.

Abiy noted that within that time, thousands of Tigray Special Forces and militia members had surrendered to the National Defence Force and many young people had refrained from engaging in TPLF’s destructive ambitions.

In his statement, the Prime Minister said that while the Ethiopian National Defence Forces have been directed to conclude the third and final phase of the operations, great care would be given to protect innocent civilians from harm.

“All efforts will be made to ensure that the city of Mekelle, which was built through the hard work of our people, will not be severely damaged,” he said.

Abiy however warned civilians to stay away from military targets saying “We call on the people of Mekelle and its environs to disarm, stay at home and stay away from military targets, and take all necessary precautions”.

“We also call on the people of Mekelle to do their part in reducing damages to be sustained because of a handful of criminal TPLF elements, by exposing and handing over the criminal clique over to law enforcement agents,” he added.