ETHIOPIAN PM GIVES TIGRAY FORCES 72 HOURS ULTIMATUM TO SURRENDER CAPITAL
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the Tigrayan forces to surrender peacefully before the military begins an offensive on the rebels at the regional capital of Mekelle.
In a statement released on Twitter on Sunday, the Prime Minister directly addressed members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) saying "we urge you to surrender peacefully within the next 72 hours, recognizing that you are at a point of no return."
The war between the Ethiopian federal forces and the regional government began early November when Abiy Ahmed ordered military offensives including airstrikes on the Tigrayan forces.
Long-standing tension between both parties escalated over Tigray's decision to elect a regional administration following Abiy Ahmed's postponement of the national election due to Coronavirus in June.
The Tigray forces argued that the PM no longer has the mandate to lead the country, describing his government as illegitimate.
The Ethiopian government accused the TPLF of treason for allegedly attacking a military base to steal weapons, an accusation the TPLF denied.
Defending the military attack on Tigray forces, the Ethiopian PM said: "Our operations aims to end the impunity that has prevailed for far too long and hold accountable individuals and groups under the laws of the land."
The three-week-long war has led to the death of hundreds of people with at least 30,000 Ethiopians fleeing to neighbouring Sudan, according to the United Nations.
Tigrayan leaders have accused the military of killing civilians and targeting homes and churches, allegations the Government has repeatedly denied.
In the statement released on Sunday, the PM accused the TPLF militia of destroying many infrastructures, schools, health facilities, roads and bridges.
Abiy Ahmed also claimed the Military took great care to ensure minimal civilian casualty.
"In our law enforcement operations, all the necessary precautionary measures have been taken to ensure that civilians are not harmed. Great care has been taken to protect historical monuments, places of worship, public facilities, infrastructure, natural resources, and the likes. Although the TPLF clique want severe damages to occur, our military planes have been very careful not to harm civilians, to the extent where missions have been aborted on identifying civilians around target areas", Abiy Ahmed said.
The Abiy Ahmed's statement came hours after the Ethiopian Military spokesman Colonel Dejenel Tsegate urged the civilians to "save themselves" as the army plans to surround Mekelle with tanks and may attack with artillery.
"We want to send a message to the public in Mekelle to save yourselves from an artillery attacks and free yourselves from the junta… after that, there will be no mercy," Colonel Tsegate said on the Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation.
The military's message has heightened the public's apprehension on the safety of the over 525,000 civilians living in Mekelle.