Ethiopia says Tigrayan forces beaten in Afar, Tigrayans say they redeployed
Ethiopia said on Thursday that rebellious forces from the Tigray region had been defeated in the adjacent Afar region and had withdrawn, but the Tigrayan forces said they had merely shifted troops to neighbouring Amhara for an offensive there.
"The TPLF force has left Afar (region)," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti told reporters at a news conference in Addis Ababa.
"According to a military information, they were defeated and they left," he said.
Tigrayan spokesperson Getachew Reda, speaking to Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location, said the Ethiopian authorities had only now realised Tigrayan forces had withdrawn.
"We were not defeated. There was no fighting in Afar so we made troop movements from there to the highlands in adjoining Amhara region," he said.
It was not immediately possible to verify either claim.
The Ethiopian military spokesperson could not be reached for comment on the Tigrayan version of events. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's spokesperson told a news conference in Addis Ababa on Thursday that the Tigrayan forces had been "routed" in the Afar region by the military and the region's militia forces, which she said had closely collaborated and inflicted heavy losses on the Tigrayan forces.
War broke out in Tigray in November between federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled Ethiopia for three decades but was then the region's ruling party. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2-million have been forced to flee their homes.
In July, after the TPLF recaptured the regional capital of Mekelle and seized back most of Tigray, its forces advanced into Afar and Amhara regions, marking an expansion of the conflict into previously untouched areas.
Since then, the government estimates that around 450,000 people have fled fighting in those two regions.