NAIROBI (Reuters) – Airstrikes against Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia’s northern region of Amhara have intensified, a spokesman for the Tigrayan forces said on Friday, which he said could presage a ground push against the Tigrayan forces by the Ethiopian military and its allies.
The Ethiopian military and its allies have been fighting forces from the northern region of Tigray for 11 months. Tigrayan forces pushed into Amhara region, whose forces have been fighting alongside the government, in July.
“There is a massive build up of forces on all fronts … we are not sure which front they are seriously launching an offensive,” Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters by phone. “There are artillery and drones are being used.”
He said multiple airstrikes had begun on Thursday and intensified on Friday, clustered around three areas: near the towns of Wurgessa, and of Wegel Tena and in the east, on the road linking the region of Afar to Amhara.
A diplomatic source confirmed to Reuters that there had been airstrikes near Wurgessa. Reuters was unable to independently verify airstrikes in other areas.
Spokespeople for the Ethiopian military, Amhara regional government and prime minister’s office did not return calls seeking comment.
The fighting since last November has displaced millions of people and pushed hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans into famine – a situation the United Nations has blamed on a government blockade. The government denies it is blocking aid.
Diplomats fear the spreading fighting could destabilise Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and an important regional power.
After the Tigrayan forces pushed into the regions neighbouring Tigray – Amhara and Afar – hundreds of thousands of residents there were forced to flee their homes and around 1.7 million people became dependent on food aid.
On Thursday, Amhara spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh tweeted, “In order to liberate our people who are suffering due to the terrorist TPLF, there might be irreversible operations in all fronts, at any time or hour.”
(Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Frances Kerry)