NAIROBI, Kenya — A day after retaking the capital of the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, rebel forces have indicated they have little appetite for a truce — threatening to drag out the brutal eight-month-long civil war that has embroiled the Horn of Africa nation.
A senior member with the regional government of Tigray, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Tigrayan leadership had decided to “weaken or destroy” the capabilities of both the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies “wherever they are,” including pursuing the possibility of following them into neighboring Eritrea.
His comments on Tuesday afternoon echoed earlier ones from Getachew Reda, the regional government spokesman, who told Reuters: “Our primary focus is to degrade enemy fighting capabilities,” adding, “so if going to Amhara is what it takes, we will do it, if going to Eritrea is what it takes, we’ll do it.”
The officials were speaking a day after the rebel forces, known as Tigray Defense Forces, retook the regional capital Mekelle in a stunning turnabout. It was a major blow to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, who last November launched an offensive into the region that he promised would be over in the span of weeks.
From the onset of the war, Tigrayans reported the involvement of Eritreans in the fighting after their towns were shelled from the direction of their northern neighbor. In the months since, Eritrean troops’ presence within Tigray has become widely known, and it became clear that Mr. Abiy had sought help from President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea in ousting the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from power.
Mr. Abiy has also turned to ethnic Amhara militias for help, and they have been accused of ethnic cleansing and trying to seize what they consider lost territories for their group. Tigrayan militias have also been accused of committing atrocities against ethnic Amharas in the early days of the war.
But even as the Tigray regional government pushes on with the fight, it faces a daunting task on its own turf. The region is facing a long list of crises including huge numbers of people displaced, lack of water and education, and a famine in which millions face hunger and thousands of farmers lack seeds for cultivation during this planting season.