Tigray forces in Ethiopia say 65% of fighters have left frontline

Withdrawal reported as Tigray federal and regional governments finalize plan to disarm rebels.

More than half of Tigrayan rebel fighters have withdrawn from frontlines in Ethiopia, their top commander says, a month after a ceasefire was agreed to end the two-year conflict in the northern region from Tigray.

“We have withdrawn 65% of our army,” Tadesse Wereda, commander-in-chief of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, said in a video posted to the TPLF’s Facebook page late Saturday.

“Our army left the front lines and moved to the place prepared for them to camp,” he said. “Our troops retreated on vehicles and on foot.”

In November 2020, war broke out in Tigray. It pitted Tigrayan forces against federal forces and their allies, including neighboring Eritrea and fighters from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which borders Tigray.

The fighting has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands starved.

However, in a surprising diplomatic breakthrough, the two sides signed a final cessation of hostilities in an African Union-brokered peace deal on November 2 in South Africa.

Subsequently, a follow-up agreement was signed in Kenya on 12 November on the disarmament of TPLF fighters, humanitarian access guarantees and access for the Ethiopian army to the Tigrayan capital of Mekele.

Tadesse said the TPLF still maintained fighters in some locations “where anti-peace forces are present”. He did not name the locations.

“Our forces are still grounded in those places because of the problems they have [‘anti-peace forces’] create for our people, but we even reduced the number of our troops in those places,” Tadesse said.

On Thursday, the federal government said a joint committee that decides how to disarm the TPLF has begun work and will finalize its plan in a few days.

But even with the ceasefire and humanitarian access guarantees, the World Health Organization said on Friday it still does not have unfettered access to Tigray.

Ethiopian allies are also looting towns, arresting and killing civilians, and displacing thousands of people from a disputed part of Tigray despite the peace pact, residents and aid workers say.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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