Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday announced the launching of “the final and crucial” military operation against the rebellious Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.Taking advantage of the 72-hour deadline, thousands of Tigray Special Forces and militia members have surrendered to the National Defence Force, said the Prime Minister in a statement the same day.
Abiy said the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray regional capital after his 72-hour ultimatum ended for Tigray leaders to surrender, and he warned its half-million residents to stay indoors and disarm.
The military offensive “has reached its final stage” after three weeks of fighting, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said. That means tanks and other weaponry can close in on Mekele, whose residents had been warned of “no mercy” if they didn’t move away from Tigray leaders in time.
“We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” he said in a statement.
“If the criminal TPLF clique chose to peacefully surrender, the campaign would have been finalized with the least amount of damage. To this end, we have provided the opportunity for peaceful surrender on numerous occasions in the past weeks,” he said.
Moreover, the objective of the deadline was to provide protection for those that finally understand the criminality nature of the TPLF clique and distance themselves from the group, the Prime Minister stated.
He said the last peaceful gate which had remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through have now been firmly closed as a result of TPLF’s contempt for the people of Ethiopia.
The Office of the Prime Minister in a statement indicated that the Federal Government is committed to responding to the needs of citizens in the Tigray Region expeditiously.
In partnership with the relevant agencies, the government will continue to extend protection and humanitarian assistance to those in need, the office said.