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Ethiopia denies attack on Sudan, blames rebels for unrest

29 November 2021   |   11:24 am
Ethiopia has denied it staged an attack over the weekend along its shared border with Sudan, blaming unrest in the disputed zone on rebels from its war-hit Tigray region.

A man holds the Ethiopian national flag as new military recruits who are joining the Ethiopian National Defence Force attend the send-off ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 24, 2021. – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s vow this week to head for the front lines of his country’s brutal year-long war has given a boost to recruitment for the beleaguered armed forces, Officials in the Kolfe district of the capital Addis Ababa held a ceremony honoring 1,200 new recruits for the army, some of whom said they were inspired by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s vow to head to the war front. (Photo by Amanuel Sileshi / AFP)

Ethiopia has denied it staged an attack over the weekend along its shared border with Sudan, blaming unrest in the disputed zone on rebels from its war-hit Tigray region.

On Saturday Sudan’s military said “several” soldiers had been killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military in the fertile expanse known as Al-Fashaqa.

The area has long been a source of tension between Addis Ababa and Khartoum, sparking deadly clashes over the last year.

But in comments that aired on state media Sunday, Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu dismissed claims the military had attacked Sudan as “groundless”.

Instead he blamed the violence on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the insurgent group that has been locked in a gruesome war against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government since November 2020 and claims to be approaching the capital Addis Ababa.

“A large group of insurgents, bandits and terrorists had entered [from Sudan],” Legesse said in comments aired by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, without providing evidence.

“The Ethiopian National Defense Force and the local militia have destroyed them,” he added.

Legesse also said the TPLF was training in Sudan and receiving support from unspecified “foreign backers”.

The land in Al-Fashaqa has for years been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers, though Sudan claims it falls within its territory.

In November 2020, around the time Abiy sent troops into Tigray to oust the TPLF, Khartoum stationed troops in Al-Fashaqa, a move Addis Ababa has described as an invasion.

Yet Legesse said Ethiopia was keen to resolve the matter peacefully.

“The Ethiopian National Defence Force doesn’t have an agenda to open an attack on any sovereign country,” he said, referring to the military.

“There is land that the Sudanese forces have invaded. The government is sitting down to resolve [the dispute] in a peaceful process, through dialogue and negotiation.”

Ethiopia claims advance
The war in northern Ethiopia has killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands more into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

Last week Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced he would head to the front to lead operations against the TPLF.

On Sunday state media reported that the military and special forces from the Afar region had taken control of the town of Chifra.

The area around Chifra has been the site of fierce fighting in recent weeks, with the TPLF apparently trying to seize control of a critical highway that brings goods into Addis Ababa.

A TPLF source disputed the state media report Monday, saying “active fighting is going on”.

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