On January 18, Ethiopia’s federal forces launched a number of airstrikes in Tigray and against OLA armed militias in some unspecified locations, as part of what appears to be a larger operation across the country.
The air operations were conducted with Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have become known to the Ethiopian public as the means by which the federal government has reversed the course of the conflict, regaining the military initiative and recapturing the territories once occupied by the TDF’s Tigrinya and OLA’s Oromo forces.
Although the Turkish government has never confirmed the delivery of the drones to the Ethiopian federal forces – six units delivered, out of a total of 13 ordered, according to the information circulated in the most recent times – the diffusion of several images testifying their presence on the military airports of the country has determined the proliferation of threats to Turkish diplomats present in the country, convincing Ankara of the necessity to temporarily close its embassy in Addis Ababa, moving it to Kenya.
According to information from Al-Monitor, Turkish diplomatic sources in condition of anonymity have confirmed the discovery of sophisticated weapons and explosives less than 200 meters from the embassy in Addis Ababa, imposing the immediate closure of the diplomatic office and its transfer to Kenya.
On January 20, a new drone attack was conducted against targets located in the perimeter of the airport of the capital of the federal state of Tigray, Mekelle. According to local sources, the attack took place a few minutes after the take-off of a plane of the World Food Program, engaged in the distribution of humanitarian aids.
Also on January 20, during a television interview, the deputy commander of the Ethiopian Federal Armed Forces, General Abebaw Tadesse, said that the government is determined to regain control of Tigray and destroy the enemy forces still present in the region. “The war is not over and the population must understand that,” continued General Abebaw Tedasse, making unequivocally clear the intention to militarily occupy Mekelle and thus resolve by force the impasse determined in the national political crisis.
The announcement was interpreted as the formalization of a new government strategy aimed at solving once and for all the problem of Tigray and its political leadership, thus anticipating the intention to launch a new military operation against the TDF forces.
Only the day before, in a statement issued by the UN spokesman, Secretary General Antonio Guterres had expressed his satisfaction at learning of “demonstrated efforts towards peace”, referring to information received during a telephone conversation with the African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olosegun Obasanjo. During a conversation with the Secretary General of the UN, Obasanjo reported his impressions during a recent trip to Ethiopia, where he visited Addis Ababa and Mekelle, referring to “visible efforts by the federal government and the TPLF in the direction of resolving the conflict”. During the same phone call, Obasanjo had also expressed optimism about the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Signs of renewed military activism of the federal army are visible in Oromia, where numerous air raids have been conducted against OLA forces, and in several areas of Tigray, hit by repeated drone attacks.
According to information currently difficult to confirm, moreover, units of the Amhara forces have been reported to be moving in the direction of Tigray. It is not clear which units are involved and, above all, if they include the Fano militia, which the federal government intends to disarm, causing however the irritation of the regional government of Amhara.
On January 21, however, OLA forces launched an attack against a convoy of federal forces in the area of West Shewa, shortly afterwards releasing a video on the internet in which they claimed responsibility for the attack and confirmed the destruction of all vehicles in the convoy. No information about the victims caused by the attack has been released.