Guardian Africa correspondent Jason Burke is reporting Ethiopian federal forces have reportedly used heavy artillery to bombard Mekelle, the capital of the northern region of Tigray, with shells hitting the outskirts of the city of 500,000 people.

Ethiopia has been plagued by ethnic violence since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. In January 2020, Ahmed relaxed some of the anti-terrorism restrictions on political gatherings, broadening reforms introduced under his administration. Ahmed repealed the 2009 anti-terrorism act, and introduced new legislation that states: “If the disruption of public services was caused by a legally recognized protest, meetings or job strikes, the act will not be taken as a terrorist act,” essentially giving people the right to organize and protest. Since becoming Prime Minister, Ahmed has made peace with Eritrea, freed political prisoners, and opened up the economy to foreign investment.

In early November of this year, the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) was blamed for an attack on Oromia state, leading to dozens of murders. Residents said a meeting was called by 60 OLA members who began shooting at the attendees. Those who were unable to flee, mainly women, children and the elderly, were dragged to a school yard and killed. Livestock was stolen and houses were burned to the ground. Amnesty International reports those who were killed were members of the Amhara ethnic group. Amharas are a Semitic-speaking ethnic group traditionally inhabiting parts of the northwest Highlands of Ethiopia. Prime Minister Ahmed is a member of the Amhara ethnic group.

Today’s violence comes almost a week after Prime Minister Ahmed, told the leadership and forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party in the restive region, to surrender or face an assault on their stronghold. Ahmed’s administration has denied accusations they are behind the bombings. Burke reports:

“Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office, denied the claim, saying ‘the Ethiopian National Defense Forces do not have a mission to bombard its own city and people’.’[Mekelle] remains one of Ethiopia’s key cities and the efforts to bring to justice the criminal clique will not entail discriminatory ‘bombardment’ as alluded by TPLF and their propagandists,’ Seyoum said.”

This story is developing.

Read more at The Guardian.

This post was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

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