Ethiopia has entered the “final phase” of a “law enforcement” military operation in the northern restive region of Tigray after a 72-hour deadline to surrender expired, CNN reported.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted in a statement on Thursday. “The last peaceful gate which had remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through have now been firmly closed,” the statement read, referring to the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Abiy claimed “thousands of Tigray Special Forces and militia members” surrendered in that time — a claim CNN has been unable to independently verify due to a communications blackout in the region.Internet, mobile phones and landlines are all down.
The Ethiopian federal forces have been notified to conclude the “final phase” of capturing the regional capital of Mekelle. On Saturday, the military said Mekelle would be surrounded by tanks and warned civilians to be aware of artillery as the military would have “no mercy for the junta.”
“Great care will be given to protect innocent civilians from harm,” Abiy wrote. “We call on the people of Mekelle and its environs to disarm, stay at home and stay away from military targets, and take all necessary precautions.”
Humanitarian workers in Mekelle reported a calm and quiet atmosphere on Thursday, saying there was no indication of any fighting in the area. Local journalist Daniel Berhane, who is in the city, told CNN that life there is continuing as normal.