Ethiopia: Tigray rebels say they have withdrawn from Afar region

Ethiopian rebels in the Tigray region claimed on Tuesday to have withdrawn from areas they had occupied for nine months in the neighbouring Afar region, one of the conditions set by the Ethiopian government for a truce announced in March.
Neither the Ethiopian federal government nor the regional authorities in Afar responded immediately to confirm or deny this, and it was not possible to verify on the ground the claims of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been at war with Addis Ababa since November 2020.
Two TPLF spokesmen, Getachew Reda and Kindeya Gebrehiwot, said Tuesday that rebel troops had completely evacuated Afar.
“We have already withdrawn from all areas of Afar” occupied by the TPLF, Kindeya Gebrehiwot said.
The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army there to dislodge the TPLF, a party that administered the region and which he accused of attacking military bases.
The TPLF, which ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018, had been challenging the authority of the federal government for several months.
After initially conquering Tigray, the federal army was driven out in June 2021 by a TPLF counteroffensive, which then advanced into neighboring regions and then toward Addis Ababa.
“From the start, we never intended to stay” permanently in Afar, “we went there to resolve security threats to Tigray”, especially “represented by Afar militias”, Kindeya Gebrehiwot said Tuesday.
The recent truce has allowed several convoys to bring humanitarian aid by road to Tigray for the first time since mid-December, a region which the UN describes as a “de facto blockade” for which each side blames the other.