Six explosions were reported in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on Saturday night, the U.S. State Department said, although it was not immediately clear if they were related to the conflict in the neighbouring Tigray region of Ethiopia.
“At 10:13 p.m. on Nov 28 there were six explosions in Asmara,” the State Department said in the post on Sunday. The post did not mention the cause or location of the explosions.
But it urged Americans to “remain situationally aware of the ongoing conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.” Tigrayan forces fighting Ethiopian soldiers have previously fired rockets at Eritrea.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach the Eritrean government or Tigrayan forces for comment.
On Saturday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that federal forces had taken control of Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, within hours of launching an offensive there.
The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party whose fight against the government began on Nov. 4, said it was withdrawing from Mekelle. The government says the TPLF began the conflict with a surprise attack on federal forces. The TPLF has described it as a “pre-emptive strike”.
The TPLF regards Eritrea, which has warm relations with Abiy, as an archenemy.
It has been difficult to verify claims by all sides because internet and phone communications to Tigray have been down since the conflict broke out and access to the region is tightly controlled.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics from 1991 to 2018 as the most powerful member of a multi-ethnic coalition that ruled with an iron grip. The last few years of its rule were marked by bloody anti-government demonstrations. The jails filled with tens of thousands of political prisoners.
When Abiy came to power in 2018, he speeded up democratic reforms: freeing prisoners, unbanning political parties, and promising to hold the nation’s first free and fair elections.
But the TPLF and some other ethnically based parties accuse him of wanting to centralise control at the expense of Ethiopia’s 10 regions. The constitution grants them wide-ranging powers over matters like taxation and security.
Abiy has denied he wants to centralise power at the expense of the regions.
This year, Abiy postponed elections scheduled for August to next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The TPLF accused him of a power grab, held its own regional elections in September and announced it no longer recognised federal authority.