Tigray commander says 65% of rebels have ‘disengaged’ from frontlines

A civilian man fleeing violence seats in a bed covered with a mosquito net at the compound of the Agda Hotel, in the city of Semera, Ethiopia, on February 17, 2022. (AFP)

 اضافة اعلان

NAIROBI — The commander-in-chief of the Tigray rebel forces has said that 65 percent of his forces have “disengaged”, a month after a ceasefire agreement over Ethiopia’s war-torn northern region.


The withdrawal and disarmament of Tigray’s forces is a key provision of the agreement signed early last month in South Africa to end the two-year conflict. 


“We have started disengagement and relocation of our forces from battlelines ... out of our forces, 65 percent of them have passed through this process, disengaging from battlelines, and moved to designated places,” Gen. Tadesse Worede, chief of staff of Tigray’s fighters, told reporters on Saturday.


He did not specify the battlelines he was talking about or how far fighters had been withdrawn.


AFP was not able to independently verify the claims as Tigray remains inaccessible to journalists.


Tigray’s authorities had been resisting central rule for months when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused their leadership of attacking federal army camps and sent troops into the region in 2020.


The conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and pro-Abiy forces — which include regional militias and the Eritrean army — has caused an untold number of deaths, forced more than 2 million people from their homes and driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.


The two parties signed a peace deal in South Africa on November 2 that agreed to a cessation of hostilities and unfettered aid into Tigray, as well as the disarming of TPLF fighters and re-establishment of federal authority over Tigray.


But Tadesse said there were still “forces in the areas that don’t want peace”, apparently referring to Eritrean soldiers and other regional Ethiopian militia.


His troops would not “100 percent” disengage until the threat was reduced, he added.


The ceasefire makes no mention of the presence on Ethiopian soil or any possible withdrawal of Eritrean troops, who have backed Abiy’s forces and been accused of atrocities.


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