There have been attempts by armed groups linked to Tigray rebels to destabilize the region where Ethiopia is building a $5 billion hydro dam on a major tributary of the Blue Nile River, according to a resident in the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State in Western Ethiopia.
The 45-year old humanitarian worker in the regional capital of Assosa told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity that there has been widespread concern among residents about the attempts by armed groups.
“The area is heavily garrisoned by the Ethiopian army but militant groups keep trying to infiltrate into the region from Sudanese side of the border,” he said.
A commander of the Ethiopian army said last Saturday that 50 militants recruited by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were neutralized trying to infiltrate and attack the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam -- a mega hydro scheme Ethiopia is building on a tributary of the Blue Nile near the Sudanese border.
The Metekel Zone Integrated Task Force Command Post Operation Coordinator, Col. Seife Angi, said TPLF cohorts attempted to plant anti-personnel and anti-vehicle explosives after infiltrating the region via the Almihal border point, but they were neutralized while others retreated.
He said in addition to the attackers killed, 70 others were injured, adding their light and heavy weapons were destroyed by the Ethiopian army.
Angi said TPLF coordinated with “our historical enemies” to disrupt work on the GERD as its forces were losing multi-pronged battles they have been waging in the north of the country.
TPLF, a hitherto all-too-powerful group that ruled Ethiopia for 27 years until it was deposed in 2018, attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Forces stationed in Ethiopia’s northernmost region of Tigray including in the regional capital Mekele last November, killing soldiers and looting sizable military hardware.
The following day on Nov. 4, 2020, the Ethiopian government declared a sweeping law enforcement operation but after eight months it declared a unilateral cease-fire to let Tigray farmers make use of the rainy season for harvesting and to provide unrestricted access for humanitarian operations.
But the TPLF rejected the cease-fire and following a troop withdrawal ordered by the Ethiopian government, the insurgents encroached on large swathes of land in neighboring Amhara and Afar regional states.
Egypt and Sudan recently conducted a joint military drill near the Ethiopian border. There have been rumors that Egypt has made its 5,000 troops stay in Sudan.
By Addis Getachew in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia