Ethiopia has added two armed groups to its “terror list”, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), against which it launched a massive security operation late last year.
The council of ministers approved a resolution on Saturday to designate the TPLF as a “terrorist” organisation, along with the OLF-Shene, after several attacks in different parts of the country targeting civilians and public infrastructure over the past couple of years.
The move, endorsed by a meeting of cabinet members chaired by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, could lead to further prosecution and the arrest of the groups’ members and supporters.
A statement issued by the prime minister’s office said the two groups “operate as terrorists and their management or decision-makers have acknowledged or are leading destructive activities on the nation”.
It added the decision would apply to organisations and individuals who collaborate, have links with or relate to the ideas and actions of the designated “terrorist” organisations.
Local broadcaster FANA reported that the Council of Ministers listed the two groups due to their activities arming, training, and financing other violent elements in addition to engaging in attacks themselves.
They have been launching attacks against civilians and public infrastructure to achieve political objectives, FANA reported.
Abiy accused TPLF forces of attacking the Ethiopian military on November 3 and killing soldiers while they were sleeping and looting military hardware – prompting the Ethiopian government to launch a sweeping law enforcement operation. The TPLF says the attack was a preemptive raid.
On November 28, Abiy declared the military confrontation over after the fall of the regional capital Mekelle to the federal army.
But fighting has continued recently in central and southern Tigray, conflict-prevention group ICG, a Brussels-based think-tank, said in a briefing, published in early April.
The number of fighters loyal to the TPLF is likely swelling because of rising fury over atrocities, it said.
The violence followed years of tension between the TPLF and the central government, in a conflict that has driven hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and caused widespread destruction.
The Ethiopian government is also involved in operations against the OLA, a military splinter group from the Oromo Liberation Front, mostly in the Oromia region.
The government alleges that the OLA is killing civilians and is behind destruction in the Oromia region and other parts of the country.
On Friday, the government accused the group of killing 15 civilians.
The OLA denied responsibility for the alleged attacks and accused the government of the killings.
For the cabinet proposal to come into effect, it would have to be approved by Ethiopian lawmakers.