Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the opposition-led local government in the Tigray region of attacking federal troops and attempting to “loot” military assets.
“Our defence forces … have been ordered to carry out their mission to save the country. The final point of the red line has been crossed. Force is being used as the last measure to save the people and the country,” Abiy said.
Abiy accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s ruling party, of launching the attack, which resulted in “many martyrs, injuries and property damage”, he said in a televised address to the nation. “This situation has reached a level where it cannot be prevented and controlled through the regular law enforcement mechanisms,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.
Abiy has been lauded as a peacemaker for the region. Last year, he won the Nobel peace prize for ending a war with neighboring Eritrea, but Tigrayan leaders say they have been unjustly targeted in corruption prosecutions. They claim they have been made a scapegoat for all of Ethiopia’s problems.
As the tension increases, citizens worry that the country could be on the brink of civil war.
The president’s words offering little comfort.
“The national defense force that has been in the bunkers for the past 20 plus years defending its people and the country by paying heavy sacrifices with its blood and flesh, has been attacked, this evening in Mekelle and many other places, by traitors and the force they organized,” Abiy added. “The army has been attacked from behind by its own citizens and many have been martyred, wounded and properties destroyed.”