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Six explosions in Eritrean capital of Asmara as Ethiopia declares military operation in Tigray complete

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Six explosions were reported in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, late on Saturday, the U.S. State Department said on Twitter although the cause and location were not clear.

“At 10:13 p.m. on Nov 28 there were six explosions in Asmara,” the State Department said in the post on Sunday. Tigrayan forces fighting Ethiopian soldiers have previously fired rockets at Eritrea.

Reuters was not able to reach the Eritrean government or Tigrayan forces for comment.

Hours earlier, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that military operations in the restive region of Tigray are complete and federal troops control the regional capital, a major development in a three-week-old war that has shaken the Horn of Africa.

Abiy’s government has been trying to quell a rebellion by a powerful ethnic faction that dominated the central government for decades before he came to power in 2018. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and nearly 44,000 have fled to Sudan, in a conflict that has called into question whether Abiy can hold together fractious ethnic groups in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.

“I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region,” the prime minister said in a tweet. Less than an hour earlier, he said in a statement, “The federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle”.

However the leader of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose forces have been fighting Ethiopian troops, said the group was not giving up.

“Their brutality can only add (to) our resolve to fight these invaders to the last,” TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters in a text message. Asked by Reuters if that meant his forces would continue fighting, he replied: “Certainly. This is about defending our right to self determination.”

There was no immediate response from the government.

In his statement, Abiy said federal police would continue searching for and detaining TPLF “criminals” and would bring them to court. The prime minister has called the offensive a law and order operation.

It was not clear if any TPLF leaders had surrendered. Debretsion said in another text message that their forces were withdrawing from around Mekelle.

Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down and access tightly controlled since the fighting began on Nov. 4.

Abiy did not mention in his statements whether there had been casualties in the offensive to capture Mekelle.

Rights groups have been concerned that an assault on the city could lead to significant civilian casualties.

Main Photo: (FILE) Ethiopian National Defence forces during a military parade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. EPA-EFE/STR

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