Tigray forces say 1,000 Ethiopian soldiers freed from captivity

Wounded captive Ethiopian soldiers

Wounded captive Ethiopian soldiers arrive on a truck at the Mekelle Rehabilitation Center in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on July 2, 2021. 

Photo credit: Yauyoshi Chiba | AFP

Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, who are in control of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, said Saturday that they had freed 1,000 government soldiers who had been held captive for weeks.

In a video the group shared on Facebook, hundreds of Ethiopia National Defence Forces (ENDF) prisoners of war (POW) were seen being transported in several trucks for exit via undisclosed corridor.

TPLF said it has informed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of the release of the POW but did not say if they were going to be handed over to ICRC.

A reliable source told Nation.africa that a UN plane has Sunday landed at Mekelle Airport for the first time since Ethiopia suspended flights to the region following the recapture of Mekelle.

But it is not yet confirmed whether the released soldires were picked up by the UN humanitarian plane.

The video shared on Facebook also shows some POW — including a female soldier who was recruited from Jimma zone of the Oromia region — refusing to return home.

Before leaving, the hundreds of captives due for release are seen clapping, commending the move taken by the rebels.

Not treated like prisoners

One TPLF representative said the soldiers were not treated like prisoners but as brothers.

The release of the captives could be seen as a positive move.

Some have taken the move as a goodwill gesture aimed at opening up a peace dialogue with the Ethiopian government.

Most Ethiopian regions are deploying their forces to Amhara region to fight Tigrayan forces as the later launched a fresh offensives toward the Amhara and in the Afar region bordering Djibouti.

Currently, TPLF has up to 10,000 army captives including high ranking military officials.

Most were captured in the recent military offensives launched to reoccupy the regional capital Mekelle.

A few days after the recapture of Mekelle on June 28, Tigrayan rebels paraded in the capital Mekelle some 7,000 captive Ethiopian government soldiers.

A brutal eight-month long Tigray conflict has killed at least 50,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.

Over 90 per cent of the over six million people living in Tigray are currently dependent on food aid.