Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has warned that the three-day deadline for the surrender of rebel forces in Tigray has expired, and he warned that this could pave the way for a final and decisive attack on Mikkeli, the capital of the Northern Territory.
“The three-day period granted to the Tigrayans’ special forces and militias to surrender to the National Defense … has ended today,” Abe said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“After this deadline ends, the final decisive work to implement the law will be completed in the coming days,” he added.
A statement posted on the official Twitter account of the Prime Minister’s Office stated that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces had carried out what was described as “precision air operations” outside the northern region of the capital of Tigray-Mikeli.
He said the allegations circulating in the international media about the air strikes on Mikkeli itself and the civilian casualties were false.
Tigrayans fired missiles at neighboring Eritrea at the end of this week, escalating the conflict in which hundreds of people were killed on both sides, and threatening to destabilize other regions of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
More than 25,000 refugees fled to Sudan.
The prime minister’s warning came after government forces carried out “precision air operations” outside Mikkeli, a government emergency squad said, and ground forces had made some progress.
There was no immediate comment from the Tigray leaders. With communications mainly cut off and the media banned, neither side’s assertions can be independently verified.
Matt Bryden, founder of the Sahan Regional Research Center based in Nairobi, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying that Tigrayans might cling to their positions as the army advances toward the capital in the direction of rugged mountainous areas.
“I think that when the Ethiopian army enters the heights, heavy fighting will likely start,” he said.