Tigray leader claims rocket strikes on Eritrea’s capital

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The leader of the Tigray region of Ethiopia Debretsion Gebremichael has claimed responsibility for rocket strikes on the airport in Asmara, the capital of the neighbouring Eritrea, raising fears of a wider conflict across the Horn of Africa.

It was not immediately clear how many rockets were fired on Saturday night, where in Tigray they were fired from, whether they hit their targets or what damage they inflicted.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had announced on November 4 that he had ordered military operations in the country’s northern region of Tigray in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

TPLF leader Gebremichael told the news agency AFP that the Asmara airport was a “legitimate target” for strikes. “Ethiopian forces are also using the airport of Asmara,” he said.

He added that his forces had also been fighting “16 divisions” of Eritrean forces in recent days “in several fronts”. The TPLF has previously accused Abiy's government of enlisting military support from Eritrea, something Ethiopia denies.

There was no immediate response from the Eritrean or Ethiopian governments on Sunday.

Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in the conflict in Africa's second most populous country, some in a gruesome massacre documented by Amnesty International.

Thousands have fled the fighting and air strikes in Tigray, crossing into neighbouring Sudan.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades and fought a brutal border war with Eritrea from 1998 to 2000 that left tens of thousands dead.

Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 and won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize in large part for his effort to initiate a rapprochement with Eritrea.