US denounces escalation of violence in Ethiopia's Tigray

Ethiopian soldiers

Ethiopian National Defence Forces soldiers shout slogans after finishing their training in the field of Dabat on September 14, 2021.

Photo credit: AFP

The United States government on Wednesday cautioned Ethiopia's warring parties after violence escalated this week with the government's aerial strikes in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region.

Washington has threatened sanctions on peace spoilers, and said the parties must lay down arms and choose dialogue.

"We have seen the credible reports of attacks in and around Mekelle. The United States condemns the continuing escalation of violence, putting civilians in harm's way," State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted.

The US government previously threatened to impose sanctions if the parties in the Tigray conflict failed to reach a negotiated settlement to end the near year-long bloody civil war that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions.

The US official urged the warring sides - Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the federal government led by PM Abiy Ahmed - to immediately cease hostilities.

"The government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People's Liberation Front must end hostilities and begin talks now," Price said.

Price's call comes after Ethiopia carried out airstrikes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday as part of its new major offensives to crush TPLF, which once ruled the Horn of Africa nation.

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu confirmed Thursday afternoon’s strike that targeted a former Ethiopian army base that was turned into a training centre for TPLF forces.

The airstrikes killed at least three children and injured 16 others, including a pregnant woman.

About two weeks ago, PM Abiy's government launched offensives in a bid to push back TPLF forces from parts of the Amhara region that they have taken control of in the past few months.

The Ethiopian air force is expected to conduct air raids in Tigray regularly as its new military strategy.

As for TPLF, they described the airstrikes as a "desperate retaliatory move" over losses in battlefields.

TPLF also said the raids were intended to "terrorise the Tigrayan people and eventually cow them to submission".

The group accused the government of targeting civilians in the latest airstrikes, an allegation Addis Ababa denies.

The government said it only bombed military targets, including arms construction and armament repair sites and weapons caches in Mekelle and Agbe.