* Ethiopia bombs Tigray capital, sources say* African, European nations push for talks, say diplomats* ‘Give us time,’ responds Addis Ababa* Tigray leader says air strikes smashed dam and sugarfactory(Adds report of fatalities)By Giulia Paravicini and David LewisADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Ethiopia resistedinternational pressure for mediation in a war in the country’snorth on Monday as its air force bombed the Tigrayan capitalMekelle, according to diplomatic and military sources. Hundreds have died, 25,000 refugees have fled to Sudan andthere have been reports of atrocities since Prime Minister AbiyAhmed ordered air strikes and a ground offensive on Nov. 4against Tigray’s local rulers for defying his authority.But Africa’s youngest leader, who won a Nobel Peace Prizelast year, has so far resisted pressure for talks to end aconflict that has spilled into neighbouring Eritrea andthreatened to destabilise the wider Horn of Africa. “We are saying ‘Give us time’. It’s not going to take untileternity … it will be a short-lived operation,” RedwanHussein, spokesman for the government’s Tigray crisis taskforce, told reporters. “We have never asked Uganda or any other country tomediate,” Redwan added, after Uganda’s President Yoweri Musevenimet Ethiopia’s foreign minister and appealed for negotiations. Ethiopia’s air force dropped bombs in and around Mekelle onMonday, four diplomatic and military sources told Reuters. Theyhad no word on casualties or damage and there was no immediateinformation from the Ethiopian government.Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’sLiberation Front (TPLF), said at least two civilians had beenkilled and a number wounded. He said in a text message toReuters that while Mekelle had been bombed, the town of Alamatain southern Tigray had been hit by a drone attack. Ethiopia’s task force said earlier that federal troops had”liberated” Alamata from the TPLF.The Tigray flare-up could jeopardise the recent opening upof Ethiopia’s economy, stir ethnic bloodshed elsewhere aroundAfrica’s second most populous nation, and tarnish the reputationof Abiy, 44, who won his Nobel for pursuing peace with Eritrea.The TPLF, which governs the region of 5 million people, hasaccused Eritrea of sending tanks and soldiers over the borderagainst it. Eritrea denies that.Tigray forces fired rockets into Eritrea at the weekend.With communications mainly down and media barred, Reuterscould not independently verify assertions made by all sides.
‘INFLICTING SUFFERING’There was no immediate comment from Tigray’s leaders aboutAlamata, about 120 km (75 miles) from Mekelle.Debretsion urged the United Nations and African Union tocondemn Ethiopia’s federal troops, accusing them of usinghigh-tech weaponry including drones in attacks he said destroyeda dam and a sugar factory. “Abiy Ahmed is waging this war on the people of Tigray andis responsible for the purposeful infliction of humansuffering,” he said.The government has denied targeting the dam or civilianlocations, but has not commented on the sugar factory.Tigray leaders accuse Abiy, from the largest Oromo ethnicgroup, of persecuting them and purging them from government andsecurity forces over the last two years. He says they rose upagainst him by attacking a military base. Amnesty International has denounced the killing of scoresand possibly hundreds of civilian labourers in a massacre thatboth sides have blamed on each other.Museveni tweeted that he met Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’sforeign minister and deputy prime minister, in Uganda.”There should be negotiations and the conflict stopped, lestit leads to unnecessary loss of lives and cripples the economy,”he said in a tweet later deleted.
REGIONAL EXHORTATIONSDemeke went on to Kenya afterwards.”Everybody is encouraging talks, it’s very urgent,” saidMahboub Maalim, a Kenyan diplomat who heads the Nairobi-basedregional think-tank Sahan. “We should focus on a ceasefire.” Kenya and Djibouti urged a peaceful resolution and theopening of humanitarian corridors, while Nigeria’s formerpresident Olusegun Obasanjo went to Ethiopia. European nations were also weighing in, diplomats said, withNorway planning to send a special envoy.One diplomat said Ethiopia’s army was reporting it hadretaken 60% of Tigray and was planning a multi-pronged offensiveon Mekelle, aiming to reach it in three days. The Ethiopian National Defence Force has around 140,000personnel and plenty of experience from fighting Somalimilitants, rebels in border regions, and Eritrea. But many senior officers were Tigrayan, much of its mostpowerful weaponry is there and the TPLF has seized the powerfulNorthern Command’s headquarters in Mekelle. The TPLF itself has a formidable history, spearheading therebel march to Addis Ababa that ousted a Marxist dictatorship in1991 and bearing the brunt of the 1998-2000 war with Eritreathat killed hundreds of thousands.FACTBOX-Ethiopia’s main ethnic groups events leading to Ethiopia’s crisis in Tigray Nobel Prize to fighting former comrades: Ethiopia’s PM AbiyMap https://tmsnrt.rs/38nQzp0FACTBOX-How Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict imperils region leader says Ethiopian air strikes have killedcivilians forces fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict Tigray back in spotlight as Ethiopia conflictflares 5-In escalation of Ethiopia war, Tigray leader says hisforces fired rockets at Eritrea ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>
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