Forces from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have mounted attacks in neighboring Afar region, marking an expansion of an eight-month-old conflict into a previously untouched area.
Tigrayan fighters crossed into Afar on Saturday and Afar forces and allied militias were still fighting them on Monday, Afar spokesman Ahmed Koloyta said.
“Now [Ethiopian military forces] are on their way and we will work with them to eliminate [the Tigrayan forces],” he said.
Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigrayan forces, confirmed they had been fighting over the weekend in Afar.
“We are not interested in any territorial gains in Afar, we are more interested in degrading enemy fighting capabilities,” he said via satellite phone.
He said Tigrayan forces repelled militias from Ethiopia’s Oromia region that had been sent to fight alongside the Afar regional forces.
Months of conflict
Thousands of people have died in the Tigray conflict so far. About two million people have been forced to flee their homes and more than five million are relying on emergency food aid.
Ethiopia has a federal system with 10 regions and in the past week, the conflict in Tigray has drawn in regional forces around the country as they deploy to support the federal military.
Fighting erupted in November between the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the military.
Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it seized the regional capital, Mekelle, but the TPLF kept fighting.
At the end of June, the TPLF retook Mekelle and most of Tigray after the government withdrew soldiers and declared a unilateral ceasefire.