TDF releases prisoners of war as internal conflict surges in northern Ethiopia

Ethiopian government soldiers and prisoners of war in military uniforms walk through the streets of Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region [File: Reuters]

NAIROBI, Kenya - A thousand Prisoners of War [POW] have been released by the Tigrayan Defense Forces [TDF], following their arrest and incarceration during the war in the conflict-hit northern region.

Early this month, TDF paraded thousands of Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] troops, those from Amhara regional forces and the Eritrean army, who are believed to have been arrested by TDF during the crack-down in the region that was launched by federal troops.

While parading them, the TDF accused Addis Ababa of "wrongly targeting our people" in Tigray and vowed to imprison those who were captured. The accurate number of those in detention could not be established at that time.

But reports have emerged that the prisoners of war have since been released following intense negotiations between TDF leadership and Red Cross. A video of the purported POW was posted but Garowe Online could not verify its authenticity.

The TDF has not openly spoken about the new development in Ethiopia, which could ease tensions across the country. Getachew Rada, the spokesperson of TPLF could not also be reached for comment.

Either way, the Red Cross, which has been a major humanitarian stakeholder in the Tigray region where ENDF is accused of genocide, has not yet confirmed the reports. Ethiopia has even accused humanitarian groups of "helping the other side".

The reports come amid brewing internal conflict in Tigray pitting TDF and Tigray Democratic Party [TDP]. The TDP accuses TDF of allegedly using child soldiers contrary to international laws.

Tigray Democratic Party Office Head, Teshale Negusse told ENA that recruiting and deploying children in war is against Ethiopian and international laws. The head called on the international community to condemn the act and prosecute this group for violation of international laws.

However, the TPLF clique has been violating these laws and committing atrocities by recruiting and deploying children in the armed conflicts, it is waging to dismantle Ethiopia, he said.

Teshale also urged the people of Tigray to stop sending their children to support the irrational and pointless destructive activities of the terrorist group and denounce the group’s cruel agenda.

But Getachew Rada, the spokesperson of TPLF has refuted the claims, arguing that the federal government has lost territories in Tigray, thus resorting to "propaganda". He noted: "We don't use child soldiers, the ENDF is very weak".


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