Fact check: Are other nations involved in the war in Tigray?

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According to varied reviews and claims on social media, three extra nations are allegedly involved in the preventing in Ethiopia’s northern area Tigray: Eritrea, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates. DW Fact Check examines the claims.

1. Eritrea: Invited or not?

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) accused neighboring Eritrea of deploying troops in help of Ethiopia’s army marketing campaign supposed “to restore the rule of law” in the area.

In July 2018, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace settlement and deliberate to advertise “intimate cooperation”. Following the rapprochement, the relationship between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the TPLF, and the regional administration of Tigray sharply deteriorated.

In the early days of the battle, which broke out in November 2020, each Eritrea and Ethiopia denied that Eritrean troops had been involved. “There is no reason for the army to request additional support from outside,” stated Ethiopian Defense Minister Kenea Yadeta in a press briefing in November, including that “the army will not fight its own country collaborating with an outside force.”

Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed advised Reuters, “This is an internal conflict. We are not part of the conflict.”

Photos and video footage printed on social media, nonetheless, described the presence of Eritrean troops. On March 11, a video started circulating that reveals two army tanks crossing by a city. In the footage, troopers comply with with a caravan of donkeys and mules, some shouldering rifles, others dangling yellow jerrycans with their arms.

DW verified that this video was certainly filmed in Adigrat, the second-largest city in Tigray, on a freeway that heads from the Eritrean-Ethiopian border to the regional capital Mekelle. The federal authorities seized Adigrat throughout the third week of battle.

But it stays unclear when precisely the footage was shot and whom it depicts. Activists and locals who flow into comparable photos declare they’ll establish Eritrean troops by their army camouflage clothes, also referred to as “six-color desert,” and sandal-like plastic sneakers often known as shida.

The variations in the Ethiopian and Eritrean military clothes might be seen in one other image shared on social media as alleged proof of Eritrea’s engagement in the war in northern Ethiopia. When in contrast with information company pictures of the Ethiopian and Eritrean army respectively, the uniforms seem comparable. But the arm and chest areas of the uniform, which normally bear army insignia, have been digitally obscured in this picture.

However, DW couldn’t independently confirm or debunk claims that the photos had been altered to amplify an outcry. Pro-government forces have accused TPLF of taking to such measures in the previous.

Confirmation from officers

Two officers inside Tigray’s interim administration strayed from the official line of the central authorities in Addis Ababa and spoke out, saying Eritreans had been current in the area and taking part in the battle.

DW has confirmed that at the very least two officers of the interim administration had been dismissed over feedback on the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray.

The chief govt of the interim administration, Mulu Nega, and the communication head, Etenesh Nigussie, declined to remark.

At the starting of March, Dina Mufti, spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), advised journalists in a press briefing that there was no “official invitation” from his authorities prolonged to Eritrea to have interaction in the battle. “As a sovereign country, you can invite Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan. But what we are saying is that there is no situation where the Eritrean government, the Eritrean troops, are officially invited,” Mufti stated.

But in keeping with Mufti, who didn’t deny the existence of Eritrean troopers in Tigray, there’s a chance. ”Because the border is lengthy and porous, they (Eritrean troopers) may very well be seen at the border space. They might enter right here (Ethiopia) throughout the chaos,” Mufti stated.

International stress

Despite denials from Addis Ababa and Asmara, diplomatic stress calling for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops is mounting.

Last week, after visiting the war-torn area up in northern Ethiopia, the Addis Ababa-based diplomats of Germany, Sweden, and the EU took their name to Twitter. For the European Union delegation to Ethiopia, which participated in the Tigray interim administration’s briefing, the “withdrawal of Eritrean army” is amongst its priorities.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 10, in testimony to Congress, spoke about the presence of Eritreans in Ethiopia. “We have, as you know, forces from Eritrea over there and we have forces from an adjoining region, Amhara, that are there. They need to come out…”

The German Embassy, in a Twitter assertion, stated: “We call anew for their [Eritrean troops] withdrawal, full humanitarian & media access, and independent investigations of human rights violations & war crimes.”

International medical group Medecins Sans Frontieres issued a press release on March 15: “In Mugulat in east Tigray, Eritrean soldiers are still using the health facility as their base.” Thus, the presence of Eritrean troopers in the northern area of Tigray might be asserted with some extent of certainty — regardless of authorities denials.

2. Somalia: Where are the lacking troopers?

Unconfirmed reviews that Somali troopers had been in Eritrea for army coaching and despatched to battle in Tigray first made their rounds in January.

Mothers and households have protested in Somalia, demanding data on their family members. Some households say they haven’t heard from them in over a yr.

“Some of them were told that their boys have died,” one opposition presidential candidate, Abdurahman Abdishakur Warsame, advised the Associated Press at the moment. “According to the information we’re receiving, those boys were taken to the war in northern Ethiopia.”

Somalia’s data minister, Osman Abokor Dubbe, denied that Somali troopers who had been exterior the nation for coaching had been involved in the Tigray battle. He referred to as such allegations “propaganda.”

“There are no Somali troops requested by the Ethiopian government to fight for them and fight in Tigray,” he stated.

In January, Ethiopia issued the same assertion denying reviews claiming the presence of Somali troops in Tigray.

Shortly after the rapprochement of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the two international locations started working intently along with Somalia on a number of subjects. Among their objectives had been “consolidating peace, stability, and security,” in keeping with a press release launched by Eritrea’s Ministry of Information.

The head of the Somalian parliamentary committee on overseas affairs, Abdulkadir Osoble Ali, in a letter, requested the Somali president to make clear what number of troops are in Eritrea, when will they return, and the location of the lacking troopers.

DW reached out to each Somali lawmaker Osoble and opposition presidential candidate Abdishakur for extra data on their statements. Neither has responded to DW’s requests for an interview.

In social media networks, lists with names of people that have allegedly obtained army coaching in Eritrea, disappeared, or had been even killed in Tigray are circulating. DW tried to match these names with social media profiles. Neither might the Facebook accounts in query be clearly put in reference to to the Somali military, nor to preventing in Tigray. However, a few of the profiles haven’t been up to date publicly for months and even years.

3. United Arab Emirates: Support with drones?

In the very early days of the battle, the Tigrayan facet claimed that the United Arab Emirates was aiding the Ethiopian military with drones dispatched from an airbase in Eritrea.

Wim Zwijnenburg has been trying into these claims. His work focuses on humanitarian disarmament for the Dutch peace group PAX — and he’s an professional on armed drones. After trying into satellite tv for pc imagery and cross-checking other data at hand, Zwijnenburg concludes: “In sum, the claims made by the Tigray forces are not impossible, but so far they seem improbable.”

In an interview with DW, Zwijnenburg explains that direct proof to confirm such claims was missing, similar to footage of flying drones, impartial eyewitnesses, or remnants of weaponry. “The only weapon remnants that were found were bombs and missiles fired by aircraft that the Ethiopian Air Force had access to,” Zwijnenburg tells DW.

After his publication, some folks despatched footage to show a drone strike, Zwijnenburg says. “But that was easily disproven because […]the weapons being used were actually artillery weapons because you could still see the shells on the ground.”

The Ethiopian military itself is certainly utilizing drones, as Major General Yilma Merdasa, Commander of Ethiopian Air Force, advised state broadcaster ETV in an interview printed in November. However, these are business drones, not fight drones, as Zwijnenburg explains. Usually, these are used for intelligence and surveillance.

What can we conclude?

Claims that Somali and UAE troops intervened in Tigray can’t be independently verified — and there may be little data out there to corroborate the allegations.

The presence of Eritrean troopers in Tigray, nonetheless, stays possible.

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