Ethiopia: TPLF unexpected counter offensive in Tigray The Tigrinya Defense Forces launched an offensive by capturing various previously lost positions

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As previously reported, after notice that TPLF resistance in Tigray continued openly and visibly despite the shockwave of the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies with extensive use of bombing civilians in November and December 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, requested the Eritrean dictator Isaias Afewerki to launch a second offensive in Tigray with the aim of destroying the TPLF by the end of February. To wash out TPLF, the Ethiopian government would have paid approximately 500 million dollars to the Asmara government to support the war effort. Some source telling us that the total cost of Eritrean intervention is 1 B. $. Information hardly to confirm.

The offensive began on 7th February. The Eritrean dictator would send half the Army to wash up TPLF. A week later, the offensive by the joint Eritrean, federal and Amhara militia forces appears to have been blocked by the Tigray defense forces. Even the TPLF would be in a counterattack on various fronts. This is what the EEPA-European External Program with Africa affirms. A Belgium-based center of expertise with in-depth knowledge, publications and networks, specializing in issues of peace building, refugee protection and resilience in the Horn of Africa. It collaborates with a large network of universities, research organizations, civil society and experts from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and across Africa.

The federal offensive has been blocked on several points. For example, near Adigrat, where the fighting is intensifying. Fights have also been reported in Hawzen, northwest of Wukro. After hard fighting, the federal forces of the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) were forced to withdraw in the areas of Feleg Daero and Agulia, north of Mekelle, capital of Tigray. After heavy fighting between the allied regional forces of the ENDF and the Tigray in recent days, Smare, Gijet and Maykinetal (40 km from Adwa) have been taken back by the Tigray forces. The battle lasted four days. According to local sources, 2000 Eritrean soldiers were killed in the battle. News confirmed by other EEPA sources.

The Tigrinya Defense Forces simultaneously launched a series of offensives and captured various previously lost positions. The area of ​​the Wer’i river between Tembien and Naidir Adet, the city of Gijet, and other areas to the north. The spokesman for the regional forces of Tigray, Gebre Gebrestadik, told the German media that in the vicinity of the city of Gijet against the 11th and 32nd division of the federal ENDF which took place on February 14, 1579 federal soldiers were killed, 500 wounded and 104 captured. Together with them, the high commander of the division, Lieutenant Colonel Ababu, was killed. The two divisions would have been annihilated according to TPLF sources. No comments from the federal government. In retaliation, the federal military aviation is carrying out heavy bombings in the residential districts of the city of Gijet, now in the hands of the TPLF. The death toll among civilians is unknown. The TPLF claims the shooting down of two feds fighters and a combat helicopter.

Some amatorial but original videos show Tigrinya forces’ use of heavy weapons such as Russian long-range M-46 cannons. Based on a naval gun, the M-46 is a 130 mm gun with a range of 27 km and 33 kg ammunition or rocket grenades that increase the range even more. The speed of the shells is impressive: 930 m / s and 5 well-trained gunners can fire 8 shells per minute. Production of the M-46 began in 1950. The use of heavy artillery contradicts the statement made by the Ethiopian Premier on 7 December last: “TPLF has been annihilated and is no longer capable of causing harm. There are only small groups of bandits that the police will take care of ”.

The TPLF counter offensive is now targeting the cities of Samre, Shire, Wajirat and the capital Mekelle. Since yesterday afternoon (February 16) intense fighting has been taking place near Shire. Federal troops and Eritrean allies are on the defensive and are attempting to prevent Tigrinya forces from recapturing the city. Intense fighting also took place in the city of Wajirat with the TPLF on the offensive. In Samre, the Federals ordered intense aerial bombardments of residential neighbourhoods. The death toll among civilians is not known at the moment.

In a telephone interview with the Tigrai Media House, Getachaw Reda, executive member of the TPLF, reported that more than 100,000 federal, Eritrean and Amhara militiamen have died since the start of the war in Tigray. Regional observers think these figures are exaggerated and linked to war propaganda. However, they agree that the TPLF is on the offensive and has caused many casualties among the ‘enemies’.The lack of data on TPLF soldiers causalities makes it difficult to understand the real balance between the forces in the field.

That the situation is really hard is shown by the internal meeting conducted 3 days ago at the Ethiopian General Staff where it was noted, incredulous, the ability of the TPLF to deploy thousands of well-armed and trained fighters with heavy weapons opening simultaneous battles in all areas of the Tigray. A clear message has come from federal units fighting in the rebel region. If the federal government wants to keep its positions it must send fresh troops. Two Antonov planes landed in Mekelle to bring reinforcements. Regional observers warn that the federal army is changing strategy: from offensive to defensive.

The Prime Minister could declare forced conscription. Already many students are being loaded onto trucks and taken to the barracks for training. The feds have started digging trenches around the capital Mekelle to block a possible Tigrinya offensive. According to eyewitnesses, there is intense military activity in Mekelle. Federal soldiers are preparing to defend the Tigray capital. Aviation is able to ensure air coverage. The feds operate in a climate of civil disobedience and the entire population of Mekelle regards them as occupation troops.

After popular protests erupted in Mekelle and repressed in blood, similar protests erupted in the cities of Wukro, Adwa and Shire. The federal response was not long in coming. 18 civilians killed by Eritrean soldiers in Wukro, 20 in Adwa and 10 in Shire. The city of Wukro is considered a likely target of the TPLF counter-offensive. This is why the Eritrean army has increased its presence. Their presence was confirmed by the interim head of communications of the puppet government of Tigray, Elfinesh Nigussie. During an interview with Vox of America Tigrigna version, he admitted the presence of Eritrean and Amhara forces in Tigray and how both forces are hindering the distribution of aid by also looting the convoys that transport food. Elfinesh also demanded that Eritrean and Amhara forces leave the Tigray region immediately.

Convoys of articulated trucks have reached the sidis of AdiHarush Round, Mai Aini Roud, MekelleRound, ShireRound. The trucks are full of food for the population.” In this official twitter of the WFP- World Food Program (WFP acronym in English) there is no reference to aid looting by Eritrean soldiers or Amhara militiamen, but regional observers warn that such news may have been deliberately omitted by the UN Humanitarian Agency to be able to continue the humanitarian assistance which, we recall, is carried out under the direction of the federal army and only in the few areas of Tigray under its control. News arrives that the PAM convoy headed for Shire has been stopped due to ongoing fighting.

Complicating the situation are new evidence of collective rape used as a military strategy to break the resistance of the people of Tigray. “Many women have been raped in Mekelle. This is done on purpose to break people’s morale, threaten them and make them give up the fight,” Weyni Abraha of the Yikono human rights group told the BBC. The Ethiopian military denies the allegations of rape while the interim government (headed by Abiy) says the death tolls are grossly exaggerated. Yet other reports of rape by doctors in Tigray have arrived. Some were perpetrated on minors. According to a doctor, 4 cases involved children as young as 10 years. The BBC collects a chilling testimony of a young Tigrinya girl. “Ethiopian soldiers ordered my grandfather to rape me. My grandfather refused. He was taken out of the house and shot down with a blow to the back of the head. Addressing to me they shouted: Now nobody can save you. Take off your clothes. They raped me in turns for hours. “

In addition to the concrete war in Tigray, the online propaganda war rages with their respective sides blaming each other. There is an increase in ethnic identification which pushes the Tigrayansthemselves to already consider Tigray a State apart from Ethiopia. This ethnic identification is more worrying as it is also promoted by the federal government through an army of trolls paid to spread fake news, ethnic hatred and denial of crimes on social media. An information war based on an unacceptable promotion of ethnic hatred that contradicts the policy of national unity up to now promoted by the Ethiopian Premier.

As the conflict deepens, defections from Abiy’s old friends increase. Yesterday, the British Minister for Africa urged Eritrean troops to withdraw immediately he from Tigray said he was concerned about the recent report by the Ethiopian Commission for Human Rights. Britain ranks among the Western voices critical of the federal government: the United States, Canada and the European Union. Condemnations and diplomatic requests which, however, are limited to the withdrawal of Eritreans and respect for human rights without asking for a ceasefire and the promotion of civil and democratic dialogues to bring the conflict back to a strictly political level.

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