'Stop the madness,' Tigray leader urges Ethiopia's PM

  • Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory.

    Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory. Associated Press

  • Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory.

    Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory. Associated Press

  • Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory.

    Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory. Associated Press

  • Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, responds to questions from members of parliament, accompanied by Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Peoples Representatives Tagesse Chafo, right, at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory.

    Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, responds to questions from members of parliament, accompanied by Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Peoples Representatives Tagesse Chafo, right, at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory. Associated Press

  • Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, responds to questions from members of parliament, accompanied by Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Peoples Representatives Tagesse Chafo, right, at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory.

    Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, responds to questions from members of parliament, accompanied by Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Peoples Representatives Tagesse Chafo, right, at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues "on every front" two days after Abiy declared victory. Associated Press

  • Tigrayan men who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, listen to a priest deliver a sermon during Sunday Mass, at a church near Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Nov. 29, 2020.

    Tigrayan men who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, listen to a priest deliver a sermon during Sunday Mass, at a church near Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Nov. 29, 2020. Associated Press

  • A Tigrayan woman who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region stretches her arms after Sunday Mass ends at a nearby church, at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Nov. 29, 2020.

    A Tigrayan woman who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region stretches her arms after Sunday Mass ends at a nearby church, at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Nov. 29, 2020. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/30/2020 10:47 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The fugitive leader of Ethiopia's defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to 'ústop the madness'Ě and withdraw troops from the region as he asserted that fighting continues 'úon every front'Ě two days after Abiy declared victory.

Debretsion Gebremichael, in a phone interview with The Associated Press, said he remains near the Tigray capital, Mekele, which the Ethiopian army on Saturday said it now controlled. Far from accepting Abiy's declaration of victory, the Tigray leader asserted that 'úwe are sure we'll win.'Ě

 

He also accused the Ethiopian forces of carrying out a 'úgenocidal campaign'Ě against the Tigray people. With the Tigray region still cut off a month after the fighting began, no one knows how many people have been killed, and it's difficult to verify the warring sides' claims.

Each government regards the other as illegal after Abiy sidelined the once-dominant Tigray People's Liberation Front after taking office in early 2018.

The fight is about self-determination of the region of some 6 million people, the Tigray leader said, and it 'úwill continue until the invaders are out.'Ě He asserted that his forces held an undetermined number of 'úcaptives'Ě among the Ethiopian forces, including the pilot of a fighter jet that his side claims to have shot down over the weekend.

The Tigray leader also asserted that his forces still have several missiles and 'úwe can use them whenever we want,'Ě though he rejected a question about striking at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, saying the primary aim is to 'úclear Tigray from the invaders.'Ě He again accused Abiy of collaborating with neighboring Eritrea in the offensive in Tigray, something Abiy's government has denied.

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As for the idea of talks with Abiy's government, something Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected, the Tigray leader said that 'údepends on the content'Ě and Ethiopian forces would first have to leave the region.

'úCivilian casualties are so high,'Ě he said, though denied having any estimate of the toll. He accused Ethiopian forces of 'úlooting wherever they go.'Ě

'úThe suffering is greater and greater every day,'Ě he said, calling it collective punishment against the Tigray people for their belief in their leaders.

Nearly a month of fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray regional ones has threatened to destabilize Ethiopia, the linchpin of the strategic Horn of Africa, and its neighbors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Abiy in remarks to lawmakers on Monday said no civilian had been killed by federal forces during the conflict. One of his own cabinet ministers, Zadig Abraha, however, told the AP on Saturday that 'úwe have kept the civilian casualty very low.'Ě

Hospitals and health centers in the Tigray region are running 'údangerously low'Ě on supplies to care for the wounded, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday. Food is also running low, the result of the region being cut off from outside aid for almost a month.

In a rare report from inside Mekele, the ICRC also said a major hospital in northern Ethiopia, Ayder Referral Hospital, is lacking body bags and some 80% of its patients have trauma injuries.

Fears of a widespread humanitarian disaster are growing. The U.N. has been unable to access the Tigray region with aid. Human rights groups and others worry about the atrocities that might emerge once transport and other links are restored.

Nearly 1 million people have been displaced, including about 44,000 who fled into Sudan. Camps in Tigray that are home to 96,000 Eritrean refugees have been in the line of fire.

'úWe need first and foremost access'Ě to Tigray, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi said Sunday, adding that his U.N. colleagues in Addis Ababa are in discussions with the government there. Abiy's government has promised a 'úhumanitarian corridor'Ě managed by itself, but the U.N. has stressed the importance of neutrality.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Monday urged the government to quickly restore basic services and humanitarian aid access to the Tigray region and allow access to independent investigations into 'úgrave human rights violations." It also expressed concern about profiling of ethnic Tigrayans.

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