NAIROBI – The leader of Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray region has confirmed firing missiles at neighboring Eritrea’s capital and is threatening more, marking a huge escalation as the deadly fighting in northern Ethiopia between Tigray forces and the federal government spills across an international border.
Tigray regional President Debretsion Gebremichael, in a phone interview Sunday with The Associated Press, wouldn't say how many missiles were fired at the city of Asmara on Saturday, but said it was the only city in Eritrea that was targeted.
“As long as troops are here fighting, we will take any legitimate military target and we will fire,” he said, accusing Eritrea of sending troops into the Tigray region and denying reports that Tigray regional forces have entered Eritrea.
“We will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have,” he said. He asserted that around 16 Eritrean divisions are fighting in what he called a “full-scale war.”
The brewing civil war in Ethiopia between a regional government that once dominated the country's ruling coalition, and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister whose sweeping reforms marginalized the Tigray region's power, could fracture a key U.S. security ally and destabilize the strategic Horn of Africa, with the potential to send scores of thousands of refugees into Sudan.
The United States strongly condemned the Tigray region's “unjustifiable attacks against Eritrea ... and its efforts to internationalize the conflict."
At least three rockets appeared to be aimed at the airport in Asmara, hours after the Tigray regional government warned it might attack. It accuses Eritrea of attacking at the invitation of Ethiopia’s government after the conflict in the Tigray region erupted on Nov. 4 with an attack by regional forces on a federal military base there.
In a security alert, the U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said “a series of loud noises were heard in Asmara” on Saturday night, and “unconfirmed reports indicate they may have been explosive devices believed to be in the vicinity of the Asmara International Airport. There are no indications the airport was struck.”