Ethiopia said on Thursday that its joint forces have freed more than 1,000 senior military officers and soldiers who had been held hostage for weeks by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Major-General Mohammed Tessema, Director-General of the National Defence Force Indoctrination, said among those freed was Brigadier-General Adamneh Mengste, deputy commander of the Northern Command force, which had been stationed in Mekele, the capital of the restive Tigray region.
The military official said the released members of the Northern Command Force were kidnapped by TPLF on the evening of November 4 after they were invited to a dinner party by the former regional governing party turned insurgent group.
He said the senior officers were freed without any harm after a joint military operation by the Ethiopian National Defence Force and the Federal Police.
“The fugitive TPLF junta had been fleeing with their hostages for about a month when they kept them at a place called Adet, a remote area which was TPLF’s command base during the armed struggle that brought them to power in the early 1990s, removing the then Marxist regime, known as the Derg, that ruled the country for 17 years with an iron fist,” Major-General Mohammed said.
“The TPLF clique was not able to withstand the military operation conducted by the defence force and police,” he said, adding that the 1,000 senior military officers and officers have rejoined the national army.
Major-General Mohammed said the joint operation to hunt, arrest and bring to justice the TPLF leaders has been intensified.
He added that the arrest of the ‘junta’ group’s leaders and the perpetrators will be announced to the public in the future.
Conflict in the northern Tigray region broke out early in November after TPLF reportedly attacked federal forces based in the region.
PM Abiy Ahmed then accused TPLF of “crossing the red line” and on November 4, he officially ordered a military operation to arrest and bring its leaders to justice.
The national forces subsequently swept through Tigray, conducting air strikes supported by modern military facilities including drones.
The TPLF, which accused neighbouring Eritrea of involvement in the fighting, then started firing rockets into the Red Sea nation to internationalise the conflict.
After the seizure of the capital, Mekele, and other major cities and towns, the Abiy government announced that the military operation in Tigray was over.
However, TPLF said the fighting was “far from over” and vowed to carry on with it.
“We will continue fighting till invaders are out of Tigray’s territory,” TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremicheal, told. Since fighting between TPLF and Ethiopian government forces started, more than 40,000 civilians have fled to Sudan.
The United Nations estimates that this figure could rise to 200,000 within the next six months as fighting has reportedly continued.
Both sides have also traded accusations of human rights abuses and massacres perpetrated on ethnic lines.
A communications blackout in the region has made it impossible to independently verify reports on the humanitarian situation and the toll of casualties from the fighting.