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Eritrean troops seen leaving Ethiopia’s Tigray – reports

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Eritrean forces have been leaving towns in the war-torn region of Tigray, locals told AFP, as the United States hailed a pullout seen as key to a landmark peace deal.

Fighting between federal troops and Tigray rebels erupted in northern Ethiopia in November 2020 and raged for two years before the two sides signed a peace deal in South Africa’s capital Pretoria on November 2, 2022.

Under the agreement, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) agreed to disarm and re-establish the authority of the federal government in return for the Ethiopian government reopening access to the war-torn region in dire need of food and aid.

But the Pretoria agreement made no provision for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, who fought on the side of the federal government and who were accused by the United States and human rights groups of some of the worst abuses in the bloody conflict.

Convoys leaving

On the ground in Tigray, locals told AFP that convoys of Eritrean troops have been leaving the towns of Shire and Adwa, although some soldiers remained.

“I saw some Eritrean forces leaving Shire towards the northeast. I don’t know if they’re making a full retreat,” said one resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another local confirmed having seen a convoy of trucks, buses, tanks and artillery pieces rolling out of town.

However, he said some Eritrean soldiers were still “walking the streets and around the markets” on Saturday.

“People are waiting to find out if the Eritrean forces are really withdrawing,” one resident in Adwa told AFP on Saturday. “There have already been announcements of Eritrean soldiers leaving, only for them to come back later from other directions.”

With access to Tigray limited, it is impossible to independently verify the situation on the ground.

The withdrawal has not yet been confirmed by peace deal signatories or the agreement’s observation mission.

War toll unknown

The war broke out in November 2020 when the TPLF, which had held power in Ethiopia until the Abiy’s rise, attacked Ethiopian federal military facilities in Tigray.

Abiy, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize in part for reconciling with Eritrea, unleashed a major offensive against the TPLF, which at one point had appeared close to advancing on the capital Addis Ababa.

Situated on the border with Tigray, Eritrea sent in troops at the start of the conflict to support Ethiopian forces.

Addis Ababa and Asmara denied for months any Eritrean involvement in the conflict but Abiy later admitted their presence in March 2021.

The departure of Eritrean troops has been announced several times before but never verified.

The exact toll of the war, which has largely come to an end, remains unknown. The International Crisis Group think tank and Amnesty International have called it “one of the deadliest in the world”.

The conflict displaced more than two million people and left millions more in need of humanitarian aid.

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AU official calls out Germany over leopard jibe that left some offended

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A Leopard 2 tank is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Munster near Hannover, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. - Copyright © africanews Michael Sohn/AP2011

Germany apologized on Thursday (Jan. 26) for using a leopard emoji in a tweet refering to the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Africa. The post that was regarded as offensive by some users was called out by the spokeswoman for the African Union chairman Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The German foreign ministry attempted to poke fun at Russia’s top diplomat during his tour of Africa when it tweeted that he wasn’t there looking for leopards, but using the trip to try and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The tweet, and the leopard emoji the foreign ministry used on its official account, apparently sought to play off Germany’s decision to send some of its advanced Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to back its military fight off Russian forces.

An African Union official questioned the use of emoji, pointing it could be interpreted as the continent being portrayed once again as only about wild animals.

Ebba Kalondo, the spokeswoman for AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted back to the German government account questioning if Africa, its people and its wildlife was “just a joke to you?”

“Foreign policy is not a joke nor should it be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire Continent with colonial tropes,” Kalondo wrote in a follow-up tweet.

The German foreign ministry apologized and said that the tweet wasn’t meant to offend, but rather “to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Lavrov has visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea this week, where he has repeated his claims that the United States and its Western allies are using Ukraine as a tool in a “hybrid war” against Russia.

Many African nations hold historical ties with Moscow. South Africa was one of several to abstain from a U.N. vote last year condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Eritrea voted against the resolution alongside Russia, Belarus, North Korea and Syria.

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Bomb injures at least a dozen people near a market in north-eastern DR Congo

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Congolese Defense Forces soldiers inspect the scene of an attack near the town of Oicha, 30 kms (20 miles) from Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday July 23, 2021.

A bomb exploded at a market in eastern Congo on Wednesday (Jan. 25), injuring at least a dozen people, authorities said.

An unknown person detonated a bomb inside a bag in North Kivu’s Beni town, said Tharcisse Katembo, a local official.

“Damage was documented (and) at least 12 people were injured. They were injured in the lower limbs, others in their upper limbs and others were hit in the head,” he told reporters in Beni.

The victims were taken to the hospital and an investigation was underway, Katembo said.

No one claimed responsibility for the bomb. However, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces, which is believed to be linked with the Islamic State extremist movement, have been increasing in North Kivu, according to the United Nations.

Deadly violence

Earlier this month, at least 14 people were killed and dozens injured in an attack on a church in Kasindi town, which was claimed by Islamic State. It said in its Aamaq news outlet that it planted an explosive device inside the church and detonated it while people were praying.

Since April, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces have killed at least 370 civilians, and the group has abducted several hundred more, including a significant number of children, the U.N. says.

The explosion Wednesday (Jan. 25) occurred in a local market next to a cassava mill, witnesses said.

Danny Syaghuswa, 16, said he was sitting on his motorcycle when a man in a striped shirt put a small bag behind a door, saying he would come back for it, according to an interview with local reporters heard by The Associated Press. “Less than five minutes after he left the bomb exploded,” Syaghuswa said.

Images of the attack circulating on chat groups show people lying on the floor. One woman in blood-stained clothes was carrying a small child.

Violence has wracked eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups and self-defense militias fight for land and power. Nearly 6 million people are internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands are facing extreme food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

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Somalia: Al-Shabaab terrorists storm mayor’s office, killing six

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Al-Shabaab terrorists set off a bomb and stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.  The Al-Qaeda-backed terror group has stepped up bombings in the country.

At least six people were killed on Sunday in an attack by Al Shabaab militants at the mayor’s office in central Mogadishu, police said.

A suicide bomber set off a huge blast that tore through building near the office complex with gunfire erupting afterwards, Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said at the end of the four-hour siege.

“All the six attackers died. Five of them during the fire exchange with the security forces and one of them detonated himself,” Dudishe told reporters.

“Six civilians also died during the attack and the situation is back to normal.” All the staffers at the mayor’s office were rescued, the police added.

Al 0Shabaab, a militant group allied with Al Qaeda claimed, responsibility for the attack via its communication channels, saying its fighters “made their way inside the targeted building after killing the security guards.” Witnesses said the initial explosion damaged nearby buildings and gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of the mayor’s office.

The area was quickly cordoned off by security officers, a witness who runs a business near the offices said.

Another witness, Omar Nur, said he was inside a nearby mall when the explosion went off and “was lucky to have escaped safely.” The Al Shabaab militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally backed central government for 15 years, carrying out attacks both in Somalia and neighbouring countries.

The latest attack comes days after seven soldiers were killed on Friday at a military camp in Galcad, a town in central Somalia about 375 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu. The US military said the attack — in the Somali town retaken by the army this week — involved more than 100 Al Shabaab jihadists.

“The combined actions by partner forces on the ground and the collective self-defence strike is estimated to have resulted in three destroyed vehicles and approximately thirty Al Shabaab terrorists killed” the US military command for Africa (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

Source: Dawn

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